Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday on Thursday

First, a few questions.  If it's called Black Friday, why does it start on Thursday?  And, why is it called Black Friday anyway?  Doesn't 'Black' imply that it's a bad thing?  So, I went looking for some answers and here's what I found on Wikipedia:   The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are "in the black".
I guess that explains the name, but what about this Thursday thing?  Nobody seemed to have a reason for the early start this year, other than the fact that retailers like to invent  new ways to make money.  Nothing wrong with that, but how far can they take it?  Next year we could see a 'Green Wednesday' to symbolize the color of money. 
Since I'm not about to get up at 4 a.m. to go shopping, as has been required on past Black Fridays, I decided to take advantage of the early sales starting at 8 p.m. on Thursday this year.  It was my chance to observe in person the madness that I've been hearing about all these years.  My first stop was the local Kmart.  Sorry.  It's Big K now.  (But it's still Kmart to me).  This was the scene that greeted me as I pulled up to the store ---
I'm not sure how long the guy in the chair had been there.  Obviously a long time since he was first in line.  There must have been a Super Doorbuster deal on a 60 inch TV because I don't think they would all be waiting in 26 degree weather and 30 mph winds to get first crack at a toaster for $4.99.
The scene was quite different down the road at Walmart.  Everyone was allowed to come inside to form the lines.  But you had to choose your department and the deal you wanted most.  If you wanted a Blu-Ray player AND new sheets, well, that's what family is for I guess.  Divide and conquer.  I decided to take my viewing post in what was previously the produce section.  Right in there with the tomatoes and onions were displays of DVDs, video games, and accessories for Nintendo, Wii and Xbox 360, all wrapped tightly in clear plastic waiting to be let loose on the hoards of anxious shoppers. When the time came, a Walmart employee moved in to cut the wrapping and that's when the madness began.  The people with a plan seemed to make out best.  Like the ones who swooped up as many games as possible with both hands then ducked behind the battery display to rummage through their loot and keep only the ones they actually wanted.  The others were discarded for those who were less aggressive to sift through like last year's toys.  I felt bad for one kid who finally wormed his way in close enough to reach for a prize, but instead of an Xbox 360 controller all he came up with was a red bell pepper.   And those weren't even on sale.
I had heard stories of people acting badly during these type of events, but I didn't really see any of that.  I saw a lot of smiles on a lot of faces, and people generally seemed to be in a pretty good mood.
But, for those of you who were hoping for tales of mayhem, I will provide a link at the bottom of this page to some of the worst Black Friday disasters, including the Waffle Riot.  
After my Big Box Store adventure I decided to drive downtown and see what might be going on.  What I found there was...nothing.
But 'nothing' was what I was hoping for.  And it just seemed right.  It was actually a peaceful and calming experience in stark contrast to what I had just experienced.  So I wandered the streets, window shopping, thinking about what I might want to buy tomorrow on the real Black Friday.  And when Friday arrived I went back downtown,  a little after 9,  and found everything I wanted.  At a good price, too.  I realize there really are some great deals in those big stores during these crazy sales and would never criticize anyone for taking part.  It's just not my thing.  I like the personality of the smaller independent retailers.  It's in those stores that you can actually have a conversation with someone who knows their products, perhaps even the owner, and who is actually glad to see you come in.  
Oh, one more thing, and this might be a good lead-in to the link that follows --- I overheard two guys talking while waiting for the sale to start at Walmart.  One asked the other if he was going to try for the new Call of Duty game for PS3.  His friend replied with a bit of what is probably good advice,  "No.  I don't want to mess with the Gamers." 

Here's that link.  Caution - If you might be offended by certain "colorful" language and some violence I would urge you to go to instead.