I have a very simple policy when it comes to Black Friday shopping: JUST SAY NO!
My wife will tell you that I pretty much hate to go shopping. I know guys that love to go shopping just as much as their wives do; they just like to shop for different stuff. While she’s cruising the clothing stores at the mall, he’s in a big box hardware store looking luridly at a lithium battery-powered cordless drill. While she’s storming the clearance racks at the department stores, he’s surveying outdoor equipment at the sporting goods store.
Not me. While I like a lot of stuff sold in stores, I hate to go shopping for it. When I was telling my wife a couple of weeks ago that I only detested going into warehouse club stores and home improvement stores, she corrected me. She said that I simply loathed some stores more than others. Upon reflection, I realized that she was right. I don’t like to go shopping. Period.
But when it comes to Black Friday, I can’t fathom why even people that enjoy shopping would spend their morning nearly killing (or in some cases actually killing) themselves and others in an effort to save a few bucks and/or get a few scarce items. Maybe it’s like extreme sports for shoppers. I’ve never quite understood extreme sports enthusiasts either.
I spend Black Friday morning doing something more enjoyable and, in my mind, more profitable. While others are out freezing their tails standing in the dark and cold among crowds of avaricious deal hunters outside of various retail establishments, I am comfortably dreaming in my cozy bed at home. I am pleasantly ensconced in gauzy memories of Thanksgiving dinner while others are stampeding hapless retail employees, glorying in the spoils of their vicious shopping battles, and standing in endless checkout lines guarding their shopping carts like a predator protecting its kill.
To me, the entire exercise of Black Friday shopping ascends to the highest echelons of absurdity. Everybody knows the stupid game, but hoards of people play it anyway.
Everyone knows that the low priced items in the bargain teaser ads are stocked in such small numbers that only a few lucky (and highly aggressive) souls will obtain them. Everyone knows that there will be copious amounts of time spent waiting, including waiting in line to get into the store and waiting in line to get out of the store. Everyone knows that the crowds will be horrendous and that they will bumped and jostled by fierce strangers. Everyone knows that they will be tempted to overspend.
Why go through all of that? What virtue can possibly come of it?
I remember years ago when one of the most popular Christmas gift items was the Tickle Me Elmo doll. I didn’t understand the craze then and I still don’t. I even had young kids that identified with the Elmo character, and I still didn’t get it. The item was so popular that stores couldn’t keep them in stock. There were widespread reports of physical violence in stores as shoppers vied for a piece of the limited supply on Black Friday. Re-sellers got as much as $1,500 per doll after stores sold out.
I laughed heartily when I saw a comic depicting a little kid standing in front of a Christmas tree holding a Tickle Me Elmo doll. The remains of the gift wrapping are in the background. The child is looking rather disappointedly at his parents, who have obviously awaited this moment with great anticipation. He is saying, “So let me get this straight. You tickle it and it laughs. And that’s all it does?”
Retailers will continue to foment the bizarre day-after-Thanksgiving shopping debacle and shoppers will continue to respond. I guess that for some people, there’s no better way to top off your holiday weekend other than extreme competitive shopping, assault and battery, and attempted murder. All in the name of getting some piece of manufactured junk that will be broken before long anyway.
I guess, in the end, the important thing is that you got something that others didn’t get, or at least got something at a greatly reduced price, even if you had to literally step on others to win that prize. And after all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?