Black Friday Bargains in a Rotten Economy: At What Cost?

Posted on 17 November 2011



Target, the mega-department store, plans to open its doors at 11 PM on Thursday, November 24th.  In case you don’t have a calendar handy, that day happens to be Thanksgiving, the one day of the year when most Americans gather to celebrate the fact that we are Americans enjoying American freedoms — even in this rotten economy.   In a bid to beat their retail competitors who, for the past few years, have opened for businesses at 2, 3, and 4 AM on Black Friday, Target has trumped them.  But they are not the only Big Box retailer to do so.  Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are opening, respectively, one and two hours earlier, and the list of early-birds-catching worms retailers does not end there.


This may be great news for those hard pressed in this economy to create a loving (read: present-laden) Christmas or Chanukah for their families.  All these folks need to do, in order to reap the greatest savings and trample their own competition, is cue up in front of the stores at, say, 6 or 7 PM on Thanksgiving, when most other folks are just sitting down to warm pumpkin pie, a little music, a little football, and some good conversation.  All the shoppers have to do is huddle deeply into their parkas, sip hot cocoa sparingly from their thermoses, and dance in place, watching the stars come up in the deep bowl of the sky.


Once the stores’ doors are flung wide, the ensuing scene will rival that of Charlton Heston’s classic Moses parting the Red Sea for the Israelites.  Surging throngs will rush to grab and propel shopping carts down aisles normally dark and dormant at that forlorn hour.  They will propel them like drunken drivers, heedless of their fellow commuters.  Half asleep and tryptophan’d to the gills, they will make hasty decisions concerning their purchases.


They’ll battle with their fellow shoppers to snatch up the hottest toys, electronics, cologne, fashion accessories, CDs, and a thousand other presents and stocking stuffers (actually, more than a thousand, if we count SKUs and not product classifications).  They’ll wait on long lines, contending with pissed off cashiers who have every right to be pissed off.


Then these savvy shoppers will speed home, unload their booty in their garages, and slap police tape over their garage doors, admonishing their loved ones not to step a foot inside and spoil the surprises.


As dawn breaks on Friday morn, spilling its roseate rays upon nearly-naked trees, warming the cold Earth, as geese take wing, honking and heading South, these smart shoppers will fall into bed, numb, exhausted, nursing Excedrin Headache Number 99.  Their Circadian rhythms will be out of whack and they’ll be testy with their family members the rest of the day, for those family members refused to buy- in to the Black Friday madness.


Those family members and indeed, those neighbors who remained ’round their own Thanksgiving tables, will rise late, enjoying the warm memories of the day before, their hands wrapped ’round steaming mugs of coffee and leftover pumpkin pie.  They’ll crack open a book or call or friend to catch up or even meet that friend for lunch.  Some will haul the Christmas and Chanukah decorations down from the attic.  At a leisurely pace and aided by small sips of eggnog, they will begin to adorn their homes in preparation for the next major holiday.


With the utmost of tenderness, they will slip cherished, heirloom baubles from their tissue paper nests.  And as each bauble is hung upon the tree, or as each Menorah is taken out and lovingly polished, these folks will feel as if Thanksgiving has extended itself one more day — one more day to feel grateful, one more day to feel human.


So, who wins here, and who loses?  In the wise words of Shirley MacLaine, “Perspective is everything.”  Indeed, it is.


When the Big Box retailers lure you away from your loved ones on Thanksgiving Eve with promises of amazing savings, you may want to look twice at what you are actually saving, and what you are losing.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chanukah are not just about the great food and the great presents.  They are not about giving your kids what they demand without a clue as how hard you busted your ass to buy those things, just so that your kids can “fit in.”  It’s not about buying your mother-in-law an exquisite present, and thus making her look bad, because she still buys you crap for Christmas, ‘though you’ve been a part of her extended family for 20 years.


America’s fall and winter holidays are about keeping certain days sacred, because those days allow us to slow down, think, and enjoy what is good in our lives — despite the rotten economy.  If you still have a roof over your head and food on your table, if your health is relatively sound, as is the health of your loved ones, and if your brain functions in a critical thinking manner, you are blessed.  If your heart functions in a way that is compassionate to others, and if you put that compassion into action, you are rich beyond measure.


If you doubt me, try it.


Rush into Target on Black Friday, or Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys R Us, et cetera.  Empty your pockets, wear yourself out, get angry at other people doing the exact same things that you are doing.  And then watch what happens to those presents you bought a week, a month, or more down the road.  Watch the worth attached to them by their recipients, by the way that those gifts are viewed and treated.


And then, sometime between Black Friday, Chanukah, and Christmas, reach out to your loved ones with a piece of yourself, rather than a wrapped present.  Reach out to a stranger in need to lend a hand or even a few bucks or an unexpected meal.  And then tell me what made you, and everyone around you, happier.






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2 Responses to “Black Friday Bargains in a Rotten Economy: At What Cost?”

  1. George from Raritan says:

    THE REALLY SHAMEFUL PART will be played by the millions of customers who line up to support Target’s managerial decision.

    SURE we can expect the Scrooge’s who run these companies to try to get away with this stuff but the real test is on us to see if we will support them.

    Will someone with a video camera get out there and tell these people how shameful it is to make these employees work? Get their reaction on film then put it on YouTube.

    There is enough shame out there that we don’t have to be stingy with it. Let’s spread it around to all those who deserve to wear it.

  2. Jack S. Fogbound says:

    When is the American consumer going to wise up to the profiteers of business that compel them to stand in line to await the grand opening of department stores thirsting for the Christmas Club money and all the inconvenience dumped on them and the unfortunate employees who have to give up their holiday,just for the sake of bargains. By not buying into this plan, I’m sure these stores will extend their offer, because it’s good for business.


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