Working in retail years ago, I always dreaded Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. In those days my store closed on Thanksgiving, so after an enjoyable holiday that included eating too much, seeing all my loved ones, and watching some football, I would have to get up at that crack of dawn to get ready for the hordes that would be lined up and ready to pounce as soon as I opened the doors.
Yes, my job each Black Friday morning was to open the front doors. Invariably, the scenario changed very little each of those 7 years I worked there (during high school and then college). The masses would be staring at me like zombies, but instead of wanting to eat my flesh they wished to devour the savings that were promised in our advertisements and in the store windows.
Black Friday was great for my store and all the other ones, and this year will be no exception. There are predictions for the biggest day ever for retailers in stores and online. Shoppers have already spent a whopping $31.9 billion between November 1 and November 20, so there is much for retailers to be celebrating.
Unfortunately, even after all these years of my being out of retail, Black Friday still bothers and depresses me. Perhaps it is – like the day after Christmas – just because the party is over and I’m feeling down, but it has more to do with the fact that I can’t live my life normally on that day. Being off from work with the kids off too, I would like to go out and do something, but the “shopping” is always on the menu because we think we can save so much money.
Having worked in the business I recognize all the little tricks done in stores to attract us to the items they want us to buy. I appreciate the way racks and circles and shelves are arranged and stocked, and I can tell from the floor to the ceiling how well a store is being managed; however, I am not a shopper’s shopper.
Unlike my wife – for whom shopping is a sport – for me shopping is functional. I go into a store with a purpose, say to get a pair of shoes. I bypass all the smoke and mirrors, refuse to look at the items on sale, and head straight for that department only. I try on several pairs, find the ones that feel best, and I am off to the counter to pay and then head for the exit.
Black Friday is different because I can’t be a functional shopper due to all the dysfunctional ones getting in the way. The hordes that haunted me back when I had to open the doors are no longer separated from me by glass doors – I am among them! There is no smooth sailing in a store or the mall on Black Friday – it’s like navigating turbulent waters in a dingy.
Black Friday is also a myth that has been hyped to an extreme. Because of this opportunity for perceived big savings for shoppers – and retail’s supreme need for sales – Black Friday has encroached on the big day itself – stores are opening their doors on Thanksgiving. That once sacred day off has been defiled by retailers, with some stores opening all day and others with opening hours ranging from 10 a.m. throughout the rest of the day. Many are staying open until midnight and beyond.
I guess my problem is that Thanksgiving is a day for family and friends, not for looking for the best deals. I understand people who want to save money, but it feels like sacrilege to put down the drumstick and apple cider, skip the pumpkin pie, and run out to do some shopping. We are not staying in the moment and savoring it, and families are suffering because of it.
Today I plan to spend time with family, not overeat, and maybe watch some football. I am not going anywhere near a store. Tomorrow will probably unfold as I expect – with shopping in the forecast – and I will be forced to either go along with it or spend my day doing something else alone, which probably means getting the Christmas tree and decorations down from the attic. Sadly, shopping and Christmas are also intrinsically linked, but that’s another story.
This is why Black Friday makes me blue every year. For all the shopaholics out there, go and imbibe to your heart’s content. As for me, I will get through the day and be happy not to be among the hordes of bargain hunters. I will have to hang tough, however, because this coming Monday is not any old first day of the work week – it is Cyber Monday – unofficially known as the biggest shopping day of the year.
Mental note – prepare to do no work online on Monday because the hordes will be breaking the Internet. Good grief!