Black Friday: Shopping Apocalypse?

Zombies at the mall; from George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead"

Zombies at the mall; from George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”

Black Friday is today’s buzzword. Millions of Americans will be out shopping, some of them ‘til they drop, or maybe, get shot. That’s ok, it doesn’t necessarily signal the end of society as we know it.

I take solace that about 15 percent of Americans actually shop on Black Friday. The rest of us prefer to steer clear of our local shopping mega marts. In fact, Nielsen, the market researcher that has been telling us a great deal about us and spotting trends for more than 60 years, says 85% of consumers won’t go anywhere near a mall or a physical store on Black Friday.

Yes, some retailers are turning Thanksgiving into an excuse to shop, but I think the Nielsen numbers may offer up the story that many consumers are getting sick of the holiday overkill.In fact, for each of the past two Black Fridays, 82 % of shoppers actually stayed home. Back in 2010 that number was 80 % of consumers sitting on the sidelines. That’s part of the faux myth of Black Friday.

Of course, a percentage of Americans get lured out of their lairs and some act like absolute idiots. No big screen television–I don’t care how large the viewing area–is worth getting shot for.

I’ve recently contributed two articles for The Motley Fool. It’s a writing gig that I think will be fun and as a writer, I’m always looking for ways to better leverage my craft and remain viable in our free agent nation.

While I’ve written a mere two columns about some aspect of consumer culture, or in this case, technology, others have been cranking out advice and sharing their ideas for much longer. There are a host of writers I’m discovering via The Fool’s site.

Veteran writer, Alyce Lomax, weighed in with a pre-Thanksgiving column that touched on the excesses of holiday shopping and the negative elements of Black Friday. I share many of her sentiments and concerns about turning every good thing into another excuse to shop. As Lomax indicated, it’s often fueled by companies like Wal-Mart, a target of the anti-consumer crowd. But Sears (which now owns KMart) and JC Penney force workers to come in and work holiday hours and takes them away from their families on what might be the most family-centric of all our holidays. It’s nice to see that some major retailers, like Costco, are taking the opposite approach.

This was the first year in many that Miss Mary wasn’t toiling over a hot stove, whipping up one of her magical Thanksgiving feasts. While I might peel a few potatoes, do a trial run of an appetizer, my beautiful wife would be up at 5:00, prepping and popping Tom Turkey in the oven. Later, our house was filled with anywhere from 12-20 people.

She had decided that after years of flawlessly pulling together a veritable feast and the subsequent warmth of a houseful of family and friends, she needed a respite for one year. I fully understood. We were planning to keep it simple. Mary and Mark were running the Portland Thanksgiving Day 4-miler (I’m on the shelf with some knee issues) and do Chinese take-out, or something low-key.

I know she was thrilled when, her sister, Dianne, decided to pull turkey duty. With invites in hand, we were looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner somewhere other than home.

This year, the Tarazewich dinner was extra special. The family is experiencing its first baby in nearly 30 years. Baby Willa is now the focal point of any family gathering. Four-month babies have a way of taking over like that.

After a nap during dinner, a roomful of adults ogled, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed watching a little baby roll from her tummy onto her back. Watching her reminded me of a Thanksgiving back in 1984, when Mark wasn’t quite a year-old, and Mary Thanksgiving dinner in our tiny Hobart apartment to our first extended gathering. We were a young couple at the time. That was the last time there had been a baby at Thanksgiving.

Sadly, Thanksgiving has become nothing more than another excuse to shop and acquire more worthless merchandise. Some retailers are going to milk every dollar out of the day that they can. Some shoppers are going to act like shopping zombies and fools–it’s a given.

I won’t be shopping on Black Friday. I’m much more apt to head out on Small Business Saturday, hitting up a couple of downtown shopping districts Mary and I both like, in Bath and Damariscotta. No Wal-Marts for us. We’ll opt for Reny’s instead. Actually, we’ll probably do more looking than buying.

If you are planning to make your way out for Black Friday, here are a few tips: 1) stay hydrated; 2) wear comfortable clothing, maybe a track suit; 3) realize it’s going to be crazy and perhaps, leave the gun at home.

8 thoughts on “Black Friday: Shopping Apocalypse?

    • The Wilson Lake Inn looks lovely. Clean and bright. I need to write a book so I can go on a book tour all around Maine and stay at these lovely clean and bright places.

  1. It does seem we have arrived at the apogee of consumerism. The internet, which should have been a great “leveler” among men and women (making massive amounts of information available to all) is the great marketing machine.

    Stay hydrated, indeed.

  2. @Patti Thanks for leaving a note. Hope all is well with you in one of my favorite regions of Maine, Aroostook County.

    @Susan Both you and Tom epitomize what’s best about local; you have a lovely property, located on a wonderful lake. Wilton is a quaint little town and your place is a great way station for anyone journeying west and wanting to enjoy the wonder and beauty of the western mountains. Btw, your website looks great and I know you leverage social media well in your marketing efforts.

    @JAB I think you need to write a book that captures the best of Maine’s off-the-beaten path experiences, maybe incorporating elements of history and even local food. For instance, instead of focusing on Farmington, you could touch on Wilton, it’s history as a manufacturing town, and of course, the lovely qualities of Wilson Lake. Travel books, while numerous, can always use one more addition that misses some of Maine’s hidden gems.

    @LP That would have been an excellent tip for Black Friday shoppers, especially in places where weaponry made an appearance during arguments over merchandise, like here. And then, shoppers also broke out the knives, also. Messing with a man’s parking space will get you slashed in Virginia.

    I mean, I did recommend leaving guns at home, but I neglected to mention knives and other sharp objects.

    • @Seth Thanks for stopping by the JBE and leaving a comment. I like Small Biz Saturday because it shines the spotlight on Maine’s small businesses that are the backbone of downtowns and smaller communities. Plus, buying local allows more money to stay local, as well as perpetuating a number of other benefits. Here’s a list of 10 reasons why events like Small Biz Saturday are good for local economies.

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