Black Friday, so named because it is the day most retailers find out whether or not they will finish their year in the red or in the black, has become a main event of Thanksgiving Weekend. It’s right up there with turkey, football and parades with giant balloons. And of course, in recent years it has become the venue of something of a race to the bottom among retailers, with stores opening at 5 AM, then 4, then Midnight, and even spilling into Thanksgiving night or Thanksgiving Eve.
I’ve done Black Friday once. It was 2004. Alissa and I were closing on our first house that weekend(NOTE: If you are considering closing on a new house the day after Thanksgiving because it gives you the long weekend to move and then a week to get out of your apartment, DON’T! It may seem like a “Great” Thought. It is not. Your friends don’t want to help you move Thanksgiving weekend (some of our did, BTW. Thanks! ) and you will have to pay an emergency service fee to get your water turned on.), and we needed a refrigerator. But it wasn’t just any refrigerator It was a big shiny Maytag with a bottom freezer drawer. It was an energy efficient beauty that placed all the food at my eye level. It We had a plan to pay for it. (Credit. I didn’t say we were smart back then, even though it worked out fine.) All that was left was the acquisition of said appliance. And so it was that Black Friday 2004 dawned with us and a handful of our closest friends waiting outside the Maytag store in Lynnwood. It was a well-mannered bunch that stood gazing into the windows, scoping out our desired products and plotting the best route to each item. I would head for the fridge while Alissa would snag a vacuum cleaner that we had thrown into the mix and we’d meet at the credit desk. The doors opened and we made our way in. As there were no computers or flat-screen TV’s, there was no pushing or shoving. No one was arrested. No pepper spray was deployed. No one died. A day later our beautiful new fridge stood gleaming in our huge new kitchen, were it would stay when we sold that house to move to our current condo with it’s tiny fridge and galley kitchen.
But I digress…
I saw various news reports of today’s Black Friday happenings. A man had his face smashed against the floor of a Walmart where he was arrested for shoplifting because he slipped a video game into his waistband to help his grandson who had been knocked down in a melee. A woman used pepper spray at a California store, “competitive shopping” according to police, to keep other shoppers from her desired items. Another Walmart saw a riot over five 2-dollar waffle irons that only produce two waffles a piece. Last year, didn’t some poor store employee get trampled to death somewhere?
All these extreme reports say nothing of the store employees who have to get up before the shoppers or even leave Thanksgiving dinners to make their shifts. Is this really what Christmas shopping should be about? Throwing a few underpriced “loss leaders” out for the masses to fight over? I don’t think so.
Do you feel respected when stores behave this way? I think it reflects something seriously wrong in our culture. It feels like the boardrooms of the companies that do this are full of people who check their basic ideas of human decency at the door and submit themselves to a business culture where such qualities are externalities to be cleaned up by a PR culture that measures publicity in terms of quantity, not quality, that will never say so, but secretly revels in the fact that their company puts out such deals that people will fight each other for them in the aisles of their stores.
I don’t feel like that culture respects me as a customer or as a person, and that’s why you won’t see me busting any doors.