Friday, November 26, 2010

Back in Black

Today is Black Friday, the day that many stores open up very early (or, depending on your view, very late) to offer awesome deals for various consumer items.

Back in my childhood, it was assumed that the day after Thanksgiving was the biggest shopping day of the year--it isn't, of course, but the merchandisers have certainly mastered the media covering the event. And that is what it is--an event, a huge marketing effort to get people to wait outside in the freezing winds at two in the morning for half a day to save thirty bucks on a coffee machine.

The crank in me just seems this as another way that corporations jerk us around. And there's a practical side to my view--the chances that these items at their discounted prices will still be available two weeks from now is pretty high. And half of this stuff is clearly available at very similar prices online. From pretty much every standpoint--economic, financial, pragmatic--Black Friday shouldn't exist.

But then I realized something--people actually like doing this. I've spoken with several people--OK, let's be honest--women, and they all love doing this. They love looking over the fliers, mapping out routes, coordinating efforts with other people, finding good deals for people several degrees from their normal gift-giving range. There is a certain rush that people get racing for deals, competing with other shoppers, surviving the slight risk of being injured, and looking at their carts with satisfaction at their accomplishments. It's difficult because people want it to be difficult

Part of me wants to throw up my hands, decrying the fact that the holidays have been reduced to a goods-grabbing free-for-all. But you know what? Some people like burning gasoline riding motorcycles on the highway with no destination in mind. Some people like to spend good American money on movies that were deliberately made to suck. And I like spending half a Benjamin pushing little colored blocks around on some Chinese-printed cardboard. Let them be. To each their own. 

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