As I do too often, I posted a scathing comment regarding shopping on Black Friday on my Facebook page. Basically, it said, I don't shop on Black Friday, because there is nothing I would want to buy badly enough to kill someone to get the cheapest price. My comment was in reference to the 2008 death of a Wal-Mart employee who was trampled while trying to open the doors as the throng of shoppers attempted to push their way into the store. It was a tragedy, and not a usual occurence, but at the same time, it spoke volumes to me.
I have, personally, chosen to have no part of it.
Unfortunately, a lot of my friends and family members do enjoy shopping, and like to check out the Black Friday deals. I am not judging. *For me*, shopping on Black Friday would be an unnecessarily uncomfortable ordeal, but I recognize that not all people in this world feel the way I do about things, and that's okay. My opinion about Black Friday was not meant as a character assessment of those who enjoy the excitement of the day.
The fact is that I don't really like to shop, but even if I did, I wouldn't shop on Black Friday, because I hate crowds and I hate standing in lines (not my idea of fun, even if I think I'm getting a good deal).
But more than that, I don't think the deals are really so great.
A couple of years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who worked in retail for years. She was very open (too open, perhaps) about the kinds of things retailers do to attract customers, and to encourage people who are unwitting enough to get caught in their web to spend more money. In grocery stores, for instance, higher priced, "luxury" items are placed at eye level and in eye-catching places in eye-catching displays. The price tags will be bright and visually appealing, and even if it isn't a "sale" item, it will look like a good deal, because we have been programmed to view items placed in certain areas or in certain configurations as "deals."
It's not paranoia to think that we're constantly being manipulated to spend more money. Most companies have done long-term marketing studies on how to motivate people to spend money - and they're getting better at it all of the time. Ever wondered why so many resturants seem to have the same color scheme? It's not a coincidence.
In retail, they place certain items strategically and in eye-catching displays, and most people will pick up the item as an impulse buy. We all do it. All of us. Even those of us with lists will, occasionally, pick up that impulse item.
Impulse items are not deals and are often marked up beyond the normal mark-up, because they are the high profit items. When I worked in the food industry, our high profit item was the drinks. The mark-up for beverages was as much as 80% above the cost of that item. Eighty-percent. Crazy! But we pay it, because we think we're getting a deal.
Make no mistake. On those "shopping holidays", the retailer is going to make its money. After all, it *is* all about making money, and they are not doing us any favors by offering these "great deals." If there wasn't something in it for them, they wouldn't do it. A few items might, actually, be marked down (but never below the cost), but often those items are in "limited quantities" and would be gone before most people are even able to get into the store. One year, for example, a major retailer offered a highly desirable electronics item at a ridiculously low price. The advertisement flyer said (in a very, very tiny font) "limited quantities", but who reads the small print, and who could have imagined how "limited" those quantities would actually be?. Each of the 100-plus stores had FIVE.
As such, the best idea is to understand when the best time to buy things is, and there are certain times of the year when the cost of certain items is significantly lower than at other times. In fact, according to this list, right now is a good time to buy aluminum foil, and according to this list, aluminum foil is a good thing to have around the house.
It's not that I don't like getting a good deal, and it's not that I would deny any other person the joy of finding a bargain. It is that this "shopping holiday" is just one more way for retailers to wrest the few dollars we've managed to keep hold of out of our collective fingers, and if we think they're doing us any favors, we're deluding ourselves. Their goal is to make money, and they'll do nearly anything to achieve that goal - even if it means trickery and deceit - two traits most retailers have in spades.
The wiki-history of Black Friday is both funny and a little sad.
All the more reason I choose not to participate.
And in this season in which thanks should be ever on our lips, I'm thankful that there has never been a Black Friday deal so compelling that I risk my life or that of another to shop on this day.