Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

I don't get it.
I mean, I really don't get it.
I've noticed a distinct acceleration in the Canadian retail market over the past week. While we are nowhere near the orgasmic paroxysm called 'Black Friday' in the United States, we're well on our way: several major Canadian retailers are touting early Boxing Day sales. "THE SAVINGS START....NOW!!!"
I was laying in bed at 1:30 this morning (vacation-related insomnia), listening to 680 News covering the massive lineups at some mall in Atlanta, Georgia. Garmin navigation systems were on sale for $60, George Foreman grills for $9...not counting the cost of time or aggravation, of course. There were apparently traffic jams to get into parking lots.
This makes no sense no matter whose perspective you take. The retailers are running huge loss-leaders to draw people in, and do you really think people stick around to buy anything that might make the store money once the stock of 90% off crap is gone? If you're a consumer--which is all you are in America, forever and ever amen and don't you ever forget it--you're facing a near-riot just to procure that special gift that convinces the people around you that you're not maxed out on seventeen credit cards, almost foreclosed out of your house and facing The Winter Of The Collection Agencies.
And take just a minute to have pity on the poor employees. Says Wikipedia:

Black Friday is not an official holiday, but many employees have the day off (with the exceptions of those employed in retail, health care and banking)...

There are several professions that society utterly depends on. Law enforcement is one such. Health care is another. There are more: firefighters; those charged with keeping our power, water, and sewage systems running. Shelters for the homeless and abused. Superintendents. Doubtless you can think of others.


I work in a grocery store. I am under no illusions as to how important my job is in the grand scheme of things...though many other people seem to be. Our franchisee spends a good chunk of nearly every holiday at the store (sad, isn't it?) and he reports the phones ring almost nonstop all day long. If he was to pick them up, he'd be besieged with are you open? and why aren't you open? Last Christmas Day he stopped counting at a hundred calls. We close early on Christmas Eve, and this upsets a great many customers, too. When Wal*Mart announced last December that they were henceforth open 24/7 "to serve you better", more than a few people remarked "it's about bloody time". It made me want to show them a real bloody time, let me tell you.

The other thing I don't get about Black Friday is the timing of it. Oh, sure, it kicks off the holiday shopping season, I get that much. So, okay, you head out at midnight the night before in search of BARGAINS GALORE, brave the madding crowd, and come home with your Christmas shopping done. You're done...and there's a whole month ahead. The retailer's faced with the daunting prospect of enticing you to max out your eighteenth credit card...over a whole month. This retail strategy strikes me as stupidly shortsighted.
In Canada-as-it-was, not as-it-is-striving-mightily-to-become, there used to be no sales worthy of the name over the whole pre-Christmas season. They called them sales, of course, and items could be had for ten or twenty percent off, but there was none of this 'nearly free' madness. That was when retailers were smart and they took full advantage of their captive market. Everybody had to shop for Christmas, the prevailing wisdom went, so why should we lose money on that? Then there'd be the great blowoff called Boxing eliminate any excess inventory. Few people seemed willing to move their Christmas into January to take advantage of the Boxing Day sales. Remember those days? That was back when Christmas wasn't about stuff and how much money you could spend.
Now the Boxing Day sales have already started and they'll run almost into February.

Every year I'm holiday'ed out by mid-December. And it's only getting worse. This is a Black Friday, indeed.


Anonymous said...


You being in retail servers a great purpose. It reminds me over-and-over why I NEVER want to go back.... ;)

I don't get people's desire to OWN shit at any cost. Well not any Cash cost, they do it because it's on sale. But they're buying something they wouldn't normally, and around the vicious circle we go.

I value my sanity, personal safety, the absence of dings in my car's doors, etc. etc. to go to these sales. That cost is to high for me for what? A gadget thingy?

In the category of "shit I don't understand about society" this ranks near number 1.

Rocketstar said...

I'm with you, I don't get it.