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.