The Dark Side of Black Friday
Whoever “they” are, they finally did it. They figured out how to make the days between Halloween and New Year’s one long, seamless spending and shopping season without the interference of that bothersome little holiday known as Thanksgiving. How? By ignoring it. Specifically, what was previously a mostly un-marketable holiday, distinctive for its lack of commerce as much as for its focus on family, food and faith – is fast becoming a mere launching pad for the mass-hysteria buying spree that has become the Christmas … whoops, I mean “holiday” season.
The past couple of weeks, more than ever before, I’ve sensed that the Thanksgiving holiday is officially less of a celebration of thankfulness and gratitude and more of a kick-off for the mother of all spending sprees. With so many stores now open on Thanksgiving night this year, it won’t be long until some cash-craving corporate cretins decide that they need to go that extra mile and open all day Thanksgiving to get the edge on the competition. It’s coming, I have no doubt. And their excuse will be – as it was repeated ad nauseum last week – “We’re only doing what our customers have asked us to do.” How very big of you. And how long until Christmas day itself gets the same treatment, I wonder?
I feel a sense of sadness and loss watching news reports of beefed up in-store security and police patrols being dispatched to handle unruly crowds of holiday shoppers across the country. Granted, there didn’t seem to be as many reports of fights and mini riots at the nation’s malls and big box stores this past weekend – at least I don’t think any shoppers or store personnel were trampled to death or sprayed with mace as has happened in recent years. And all this for a deal on flat screen TVs, game consoles and mountains of meaningless merchandise to add to the stuff of contemporary life.
In case the original meaning of the terms has been lost in all the media hype, “Black Friday” was so-named because, long ago in the pre-internet days of yesteryear, many retailers relied on the shopping days between the Friday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve to make a significant portion of their annual total sales, thus taking them into the profitable “black” on their balance sheets.
On the other side of the weekend, the “Cyber Monday” moniker also comes from the days of yore (the name was first used in 2005) when the early adopters who were comfortable with the concept of buying online would start shopping in earnest from their employers’ workplaces on the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. At work, people had access to high-speed internet connections that made online shopping faster and more reliable than doing it at home over a (typical for the time) dial-up modem. Those days are long gone with a majority of people now able to shop online anytime from anywhere as long as they have their smart phone, iPad or laptop at hand. Yet the Cyber Monday name and phenomenon are stronger than ever.
We had the joy of spending Thanksgiving afternoon and evening with some wonderful friends of ours who live a few hours north of us in Lompoc. (Many tryptophan-laced thanks to the always amazing Radabaugh clan!) On our way back down Hwy 101 later that night, we passed a huge Target store somewhere north of Woodland Hills. It was almost 11 p.m. and the store’s parking lot was filled to capacity with cars. I just don’t get it.
By the way, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday was the slightly more laudable Small Business Saturday. Sure, why not. As I was finishing this column, I heard a radio reporter call last Thursday, “Gray Thursday.” Has a nice, cheery ring to it, right?
Here’s an idea: as long as we’re renaming the holiday formerly known as Thanksgiving, why not just call it Thankless Thursday?
I’ll see you ’round town.