It's time to white out 'Black Friday'
There's an Internet meme that captures the sentiment perfectly: "Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day being thankful for what they already have."
Some of us like to savor the holiday season, and the only thing we dread more than seeing Christmas decorations in October is Black Friday. It's the day that takes that feel-good sentiment of Thanksgiving and kicks it to the ground and tramples over it, but not before running it over with the car on the way to the 4 a.m. doorbuster sales.
I get it. Times are tough. Retailers need all the business they can get in the door. But what is gained by tearing employees away from their families at 2 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving? Or at 9 p.m. Thanskgiving night, as Target stores across the United States will be doing to get a jump on the Black Friday rush? The drive for deals and the retailers that offer them are nothing new, but it's worth taking a look at how our consumerist society has influenced our fall from Thanksgiving grace.
A history of shopping
Blame the Great Depression for the emergence of the biggest shopping day of the year. Many retailers as early as the 19th century saw Thanksgiving as the traditional start of the holiday shopping calendar. In 1939, retailers collectively convinced President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to bump the Thanksgiving holiday up a week to add even more time for Christmas shopping.
While the early Thanksgiving of that year had no effect (poor planning meant few observed it or the early start to the holiday shopping season), the prominence of Black Friday has grown since that time. Interestingly enough, Philadelphia-area newspapers coined the term in the 1960s, to describe the overwhelming amount of black ink to track sales in store ledgers the day after Thanksgiving.
A reason for the season?
Despite the history, the time of interfering with employees' Thanksgiving celebrations and turning sane people into Tickle-Me-Elmo-shopping lunatics should come to an end. Here's why:
- It's dangerous: According to AAA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more people are killed in accidents involving drunk drivers during the Thanksgiving holiday (including the Wednesday before and the weekend after) than any other holiday during the year. The reason is drivers who underestimate the effects of alcohol when they've consumed it with a big meal. It's enough incentive to stay inside and enjoy the food coma over the weekend in the comfort of your own home.
- There are other ways to save: Luxury brands like Apple never have sales, except for Black Friday. However, computer shoppers can get the same savings or better year-round through the Apple Store's online education website, which offers $50 to $100 off Mac desktops and laptops. Meanwhile, high-end clothing establishments like Anthropologie and Banana Republic boast impressive sales racks year-round. Certain items go on sale at specific times of the year. Most stores have a "white sale" for linens and bedding in January, while the best time to shop for televisions and other electronics is April, a month after the end of the Japanese fiscal year, when companies are eager to unload old stock. Super savings are not restricted to one day of the year.
- Cyber Monday: Between 2003 and 2005, online retailers noticed that more shoppers were buying from their websites the Monday after Thanksgiving. Since that time, more online stores are catering to the stay-at-home shopper with deals on Cyber Monday. According to Shop.org, the online bureau of the National Retail Federation, online sales are expected to increase to $96 billion this holiday season, a 12% increase over last year. With more online retailers offering free or same-day shipping, the incentive for shopping with the click of a mouse is gaining traction.
- Family: If you offered someone a chance to upgrade to the new iPhone for free or to spend an hour with a long-lost loved one, chances are the loved one would win out. At the end of the day, nothing is more important than the people you love. No one will cook a turkey and stuffing better than your mom, and no one will keep everyone at the table roaring with laughter like your uncle. Every family member has something to contribute, and that's what makes Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's fun.
The talking Furby and those Spice Girl dolls you waited in line for on Black Fridays past will end up in the basement or a garage sale sooner or later. The memories you make with your family deserve to be enjoyed and preserved for years to come — on a camera you bought before the holiday rush.