Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Friday

Many are concerned that we have turned the holiday season into a materialistic orgy of sales and door busters, that we have sacrificed our annual fellowship with kith and kin at the altar of consumerism. Stores are opening earlier this year than ever, and retail giant Wal-Mart began their Black Friday festivities at 10:00 PM Thanksgiving Day. So how did this benefit the American consumer? Let’s take a look:

Patrons in an Arkansas Wal-Mart were captured on video as they scrambled to claim discounted Waffle-irons. Throngs of people were screaming as they surged forward to grasp their prize. One woman (whose shirt is ill-equipped to contain her torso) can be seen walking away with at least four of the electric griddles. A snide person might quip that the level of excitement in Arkansas would only make sense if the machines dispensed beer, NASCAR tickets, or back child-support. Fortunately, I have chosen the high road and will make no such observation.

But when did homemade waffles become so popular? Let me tell you something, if you are serious enough about specific breakfast pastries to willingly launch yourself onto other human beings, you already own a waffle-maker. Granted, the waffle-makers in question were priced competitively but if it takes a $2 price point for you to pull the trigger on a kitchen appliance I seriously doubt you are going to spend the time it takes to prepare homemade batter. Plus, I have stayed at enough mid-level hotels to know that half of American adults cannot successfully operate a waffle-iron even when assisted by an illustrated instruction guide.

At a Los Angeles area Wal-Mart, a woman assaulted twenty other patrons with pepper spray in order to acquire a discounted Xbox video game console. She was caught on camera and since turned herself in to authorities. Several of the victims needed medical treatment and the police are deciding whether or not to file charges. Apparently, the woman was afraid that she would have to pay regular price if she did not take drastic action.

I ask you, what kind of person is committed enough to chemically-blind complete strangers, but not committed enough to arrive at the store earlier than them? Just skip dessert and get there a few minutes ahead of schedule if saving $20 on a game system is that critical. Common sense tells us that an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of assault.
In New York, two women were hospitalized while trying to take advantage of a sale on smartphones. One of the women claims that she was forced to the floor before being kicked in the face while the other woman described the scene as a “stampede.” So far no charges have been filed in the case and it does not appear that either woman was able to procure the device.

While I am a proponent of both technology and thrift, it will be a cold day in Hell before I stand in line for the privilege of getting mule-kicked on my day off. If my choices are between settling for a cheaper cell-phone model or involuntarily recreating a scene from American History X, you better believe somebody will be waking up to a Jitterbug flip phone on Christmas morning.

There were also reports of gun violence outside of Wal-Mart stores in California and South Carolina. In both cases, armed assailants demanded that the bargain shoppers turn over their discounted merchandise. In one case, a man was crossing the parking lot with his family and refused to hand over his door-buster items. In the ensuing scuffle, he was shot and remains in critical condition.

I am not sure who exhibited worse judgment: the thief willing to pull a gun on a family or the family willing to die rather than relinquish their purchase. Call me a coward, but if I am going to take a bullet it is going to be for something more meaningful than a discounted Garmin GPS. The physical therapy and hospital co-pays are going to negatively impact my shopping budget more than waiting a few days and paying full price. 

The real victims in all of this are the store employees. While the shoppers chose to truncate their Thanksgiving festivities, the workers have no such option. Every year, more and more of their holiday becomes a casualty of the public’s insatiable lust for discounted prices on non-essential items. These people are not giving up their turkey dinner so that we can procure food or shelter. They are giving up their turkey dinner so that we can take pride in the fact we acquired an iPad2 for the price of an original iPad. If there is one thing that I can be thankful for this year, it is that I have the luxury of not working retail anymore.


  1. I have a theory - the people get get up early for Black Friday - are always late to work !!


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