Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday, future and present

Someday I will explain to my son that there was a time when the Friday after Thanksgiving was not commonly called "Black Friday." (This will come after explaining the day preceding Black Friday used to be called "Thanksgiving.")

The explanation won't be that people didn't go shopping on that day; it will be that the day simply was "the day after Thanksgiving." Certainly retailers were referring to it as "Black Friday" out of a co-opting of that term from original negative connotations to suggest the accounting association of getting "in the black" (profitable). However, that was essentially industry jargon; one didn't see it used in advertisements. (At least, it's certainly my recollection that ten or fifteen years ago commercials didn't refer to it with such terminology; that may be more a flaw of my memory than actuality.)

Given the way things have progressed I fear by this theoretical time in the future my son will be incredulous there was ever a time when commercials didn't expressly reference the day's events as "Black Friday" sales. As one can see now they do so with the full presumption the public knows what that means (which, it stands to reason, by now they do) and it seems highly unlikely that's going to change between these days when it is ubiquitous and when he is old enough to notice such things.

Here's hoping he won't ask why his father was spending some time putting this on the internet rather than being out shopping with the hordes.


While we're on the topic of today let's digress to the particulars of this year...

With the economic conditions of the past many years it would seem the desperation among retailers has made them open earlier on Black Friday, first to the wee hours of the morning and in recent years moving that time so early it now commences on Thanksgiving itself.

Typically in the commercials touting "Black Friday" sales where the stores open Thursday at 5 or 6 p.m., but what I find most interesting is not merely that they've been able to stretch the definition of one day to include at least a quarter of the previous day but how in these ads they expressly avoid referring to that Thursday start time as "Thanksgiving Day"; it ceases to be the originating holiday at sunset even if the standard clock suggests the day changes at midnight—but for the love of money do not remind people that it's technically Thanksgiving when they're heading to the stores!

Of course, retailers would not do this were the population not complying with actually going out. If they couldn't get enough people to shop on Thanksgiving they wouldn't bother to staff the stores at those hours; if they couldn't get people who were willing to work on Thanksgiving they wouldn't be able to be open for those who were inclined to shop.

That level of complicity doesn't merely mean people are looking both for bargains and for seasonal paychecks—it suggests a lot of people are desperate to get away from their families after the grand meal has been consumed. In the past people had to concoct some excuse but now they can steal away to the mall just after dessert has been served.

Because I am a horrible American who must hate his country I won't be doing any shopping during the entire weekend, but good luck to those of you bargain hunters who ventured out.

Here's hoping the total maimed or killed by trampling is kept low. (Without the threat of serious injury or death in acquiring those gifts how are the recipients supposed to feel like you really care?)

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