It’s mid-November. A week from today, shopping malls, big box stores and retail outlets across the country will be teeming with shoppers eager to reap doorbuster sale prices on everything from the hottest kids’ toys to electronics and other appliances. Word is even a few of them will be buying Christmas gifts for family and friends. They’ll be fighting traffic, fighting one another, rushing through an open door like a stampeding herd of cattle.
And the rest of us will either laugh at them, or despise them.
Yep, it’s Black Friday.
What is it about this one day—the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving—that evokes so much anticipation (from shoppers and retailers alike) as well as scorn from people who feel it’s an absurd, over-hyped event? Those in the anti-Black Friday group not only dislike it, they despise it. One reason is because many stores are electing to open earlier and earlier. It used to be 6 a.m. Then it was 4 a.m. Then midnight. Now, some stores are opening on Thanksgiving night. Thanksgiving night! Enjoy your family dinner, Target employee. Now get your ass to work right after your second piece of pumpkin pie.
Here’s the problem for those who think Black Friday is a dark day that should be banned: it is wildly popular. Last year, amidst 9 percent unemployment, retailers raked in more than $11 billion in Black Friday sales, according to Bloomberg. That’s a 6.6 percent increase from 2010. I have seen the enemy and it’s not them. It’s us. We created this monster.
In a market driven society, if no one did it, Black Friday would cease to exist. But people do camp out. They do wait in line, in the dark, in the cold. They do bum rush the entrance when a clerk unlocks the doors. You can’t blame the retailers when we are our own worst enemy.
The real question about Black Friday is simple: is it worth it? Is it worth waking up in the middle of the night and/or camping out in the cold, waiting for the store to open its doors to maybe, hopefully, possibly get your hands on the $100 HDTV? Or to stand in long lines and get caught in shopping stress and traffic that comes with it? Remember, cost is not just determined in dollars and cents. It’s also time invested and the emotional toll. Do shoppers, overall, truly make out better on Black Friday as opposed to, say, Holy Crap It’s Christmas Eve and I Haven’t Done Any Shopping Yet day? Not really.
With the Internet, stores are open 24/7. There are no lines. There’s no driving to the store. You don’t even need to wear pants to shop at Amazon or Zappos. In an age when you can buy items on your smartphone or tablet, you’d think Black Friday would’ve already died. Old habits die hard, I guess. And humans still can’t resist the siren call of a one-in-a-million deal; even if their chance of reaping that reward are…well, one-in-a-million.
As long as folks continue to fulfill P.T. Barnum’s prophecy, we’re stuck with Black Friday. I simply choose to not be a party to this folly.