The days of waiting in line all night for a chance at a bargain are over.
I am doing well to move this morning. No longer being accustomed to standing on my feet for hours on end, yesterday’s marathon of ten hours in the kitchen did me in. My ankles were throbbing as I fell into bed early last night. This morning, walking the dog was painful. None of my joints wanted to cooperate. This is all beside the fact that I still feel totally overstuffed from dinner. After yesterday, I don’t see how anyone can even think about getting up too damn early and standing in line for an alleged deal.
Black Friday used to be a tradition for a lot of families, but that tradition seems to be waning rather heavily. I took note as we walked through the neighborhood this morning. Several cars were missing yesterday as many had gone to visit relatives for the holiday. However, everyone was back home this morning. No one was out shopping at 4:00 AM. The only vehicle out was the local newspaper carrier.
While it’s still much too early to get many reliable reports, lower numbers seem to be the case elsewhere. Britain tried adopting the U.S. tradition a few years ago, but reports this morning are that UK shoppers and retailers have largely turned their backs on Black Friday. We’re accustomed to hearing tales of chaos and fighting, but Business Insider sent someone out early to Wal-Mart and they reported everything was quiet, calm, and not the least bit overcrowded. Black Friday as we once knew it is dead. Sure, there’s still shopping, and greed, and one-day sales, but the whole event has changed and isn’t likely to return to the madhouse it once was.
This is a good thing.
The Myth Of Black Friday
Black Friday has never been the big savings bonanza people tend to think. Prices are marked down on a few highly visible loss leaders in an attempt to get people into stores. For decades, that plan has worked. Here’s a rather hilarious video that explains the whole concept:
For years we’ve fallen for this piece of retail fraud. We like the idea of sales. In fact, we’ve conditioned ourselves to not pay what we think is full price for anything. Retailers know this. So, that “full price” is falsified so that the actual “full price” looks like a bargain. We fall for the trick every time.
We also like the holidays and for many Black Friday shopping is a part of their holiday routine. Whole families have been known to go out together, setting up tents in frigid temperatures, and pretending to love every minute of it because, hey, it’s the holidays and it’s families. Retailers know that as well and they’ve pushed store openings earlier to the point that many now open on Thanksgiving day itself. Why? Because they know you just can’t wait to start the holidays.
So, while retailers may be guilty of starting the whole Black Friday ruse, we’re the ones guilty of perpetuating it and making it worse. The ridiculousness only works because we buy into the whole myth. If we actually applied intelligent thought to the matter, the whole event would quickly go away.
But Wait, Something Is Changing
This year Black Friday is noticeably different. Multiple news sources are finding that Black Friday is losing its focus and online sales surged yesterday as more people decided to stay home and shop online. Major big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy as well as online powerhouse Amazon all started their Black Friday sales two weeks in advance for those savvy enough to be paying attention.
In some ways, Black Friday isn’t just a one-day event, but an entire shopping season unto itself. With online sales having grown by over 16%, brick-and-mortar retailers are having to scramble harder and getting much less in return. Last year’s Black Friday numbers were some of the most disappointing ever, leaving a large number of stores still looking at red on their accounting books rather than black. The hope this year has been that by expanding the sales as well as embracing online shopping that disaster might be averted.
Take note, though: US retailers weren’t hurting nearly as bad as they let on. Sales numbers at discount merchants, which is where most of you are shopping in the first place, have been booming. Deep discounters, such as Dollar Store and Dollar Tree are actually expanding, building more stores, and hiring more staff. Who’s left hurting are high-dollar luxury goods stores and high-end department stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom. Mall stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch and American Apparel are at risk of having to close more stores if this holiday season does not improve dramatically, and there’s no indication it will.
Sure, we still love a good sale, but fewer of us are willing to get out of bed at some ungodly hour on a cold morning in November to actually take advantage of those sales. We’d rather sit home, surf on our phones, and buy that cute sweater online. Black Friday as a day of chaos and high sales appears to be all but dead.
Controlling Our Greed
I’ve complained about Black Friday before. In fact, these photos were first part of a Black Friday rant four years ago. Unfortunately, we lost that particular article when the server crashed a couple of years ago. Still, my point is that this exercise in sheer greed is not new. Just because the shape of Black Friday is expanding beyond a single 24-hour period doesn’t mean that we’re buying any less. We’re not. If anything, our constant consumption has taken our shopping to new heights. While the bash-em-in-the-head version of Black Friday might be over, what we’ve done is expand the scope and methodology of our greed. We’re buying more.
Sure, where we’re shopping has changed. We’re buying more from local stores, which improves our local economy. We’re buying more online, which helps the environment a little bit, allegedly. We’re still buying, though, and not necessarily so we can give to others. While the numbers vary wildly from one report to another, a fair portion of us useBlack Friday sales to buy things for ourselves. That new big screen TV? Yeah, that’s going in our own living room. We can call if a family gift if you want, but we still know the actual reasoning was pure selfishness. We deserve it, right? That sweater? Hey, it’s getting colder out and that one you bought last year is looking a bit ratty. And you can never have too many pants.
We don’t need to have a Black Friday to be greedy. We just are. We always have been. Each year, we say we’re going to give more to charity. Each year, there are more opportunities to real good. Each year, we just let those opportunities slip right on by. Why? Because those boots are40% off the price previously marked up 50$. We’re not buying them for the kids, or for Aunt Ella. Those are going in our own closets. We’re greedy.
Herein lies the perpetual hypocrisy of Thanksgiving, a reflection of much of the hypocrisy other countries see in all of America. We claim to be so concerned about others. We claim to want what is best for the world. But in the end, it’s our own fat asses we take care of. We give thanks for what we have and then demand more.
I made sausage balls yesterday and set them out for everyone to snack on throughout the day. My hope was that they would be enough to keep the little ones out of my hair. It didn’t work. They looked at the overflowing container and asked, “It this all we’re getting?”
We learn greed young. We need to get over our fat selves. Let’s kill Black Friday for good. Stay home. Don’t shop for what you don’t legitimately need. Stop the greed.