About 8 months ago, I delved into the topic of shopping and originally intended to include the unofficial American holiday of Black Friday, but decided to hold off until this time of year because it really warrants its own post. Someone please explain to me what the hell is so great about Black Friday shopping. I've been to malls on my share of Black Fridays and never really bought into the whole ordeal. And now that this thing has exploded to the point that people are essentially heading immediately out to the stores once the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie is finished, it's really starting to get on my nerves.
Before you say, "but Lou you idiot, don't you realize the huge sales and discounts that are out there to be had on Black Friday?" - I do realize. How can't I? Every piece of advertising anyone sees or hears during the week of Thanksgiving somehow involves a huge Black Friday blowout, as if the day after Thanksgiving is the last day that anyone will ever be able to buy holiday gifts without going bankrupt. I especially love the stores that have the descending discounts as time goes by during the morning, i.e. before 6am you get 40% off, between 6-8 you get 25%, between 8-10 you get 10%, etc. What a joke. You know where I like to be at 6am on Black Friday? Asleep in bed. The last place I'd ever want to be is standing in 30-degree weather waiting for the doors to open at Kohl's or some other dumpy store so I can stampede in with the rest of the herd and jockey for position to save an ultimately inconsequential amount of money. On that note, let's also not forget the 2008 trampling incident at a Long Island Wal-Mart that resulted in an employee's death.
The root of it is that some people place such little value on their time or have no concept of valuing their time altogether. I don't care if I'm apparently a sucker for paying slightly higher prices for gifts because I miss out on these supposedly phenomenal Black Friday deals. Avoiding the throngs of frantic people, the long lines, the traffic, and any other aggravating thing you can think of is well worth it. Of course, there are exceptions - I have a friend who spent 10 hours or so overnight between Thanksgiving and Black Friday in front of a Target last year but got in as soon as they opened and saved something like $250 on an HD TV. If you break it down, that's essentially valuing your time and relative comfort at $25 an hour, which is pretty fair if you ask me. But how many people actually get the kind of deal (on a worthwhile product, mind you) that really computes into a figure that justifies their time and effort?
Another thing we're assured of on Black Friday is the mind-numbing local news coverage that night. You always see some overweight and inarticulate mongo yelping at the camera, bragging about whatever deals they got, and how "I gots all ma shoppin' done ta-day!" Oh really, Lennie, did you? You're telling me you got all your Christmas shopping done today? I'm here to dispute that fact. No matter how much stuff they do buy, no one gets all their shopping done on Black Friday. You know why? Because there's still a month or so left before Christmas; and as December goes on, our consciousness becomes dominated by Christmas songs, cookies, Ralphie Parker, Rudolph, Santa, etc. That, in turn, compels many people to get back out there for "just a few more things here and there," because they want to immerse themselves in the onslaught of holiday cheer - no one wants to feel uninvited to the party. So even if you end up "getting all your shopping done on Black Friday," chances are you will end up spending even more money in the subsequent weeks.
In conclusion, I don't want to come off like a grinch, but I do believe that Black Friday in Western culture is one of the things about life on our planet that causes the aliens to never really stick around when they visit Earth. I'm not telling anyone not to go out and shop to their heart's content this Friday (after all, what do I care, I'll be at work). But just take it with a grain of salt and maybe, just maybe, think to yourself - is voluntarily subjecting myself to all these unsavory people and uncomfortable situations really worth it?