The End of Black Friday

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 22, 2018

Filed under: Random 78 comments

Note that since I’m going to be discussing Black Friday, this post will be a little more US-centric than usual. I know things are a bit different elsewhere and most of this doesn’t apply to people outside of North America.

A few years ago I wrote a post explaining the mechanics behind Black Friday sales, where you get a stampede of aggressive consumers competing for goods on the day after Thanksgiving. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this month. 

Apparently I’m not the only one. I got this email:

A number of years back you wrote a great post on “Why the Christmas Shopping Season is Worse Every Year”. One key point being that as much as retailers would love to start moving goods prior to Thanksgiving, we consumers just hate the idea and insist on waiting until after the turkey is stuffed.

Yet, reading through my inbox the past week and judging by commercials I’ve seen throughout the month of November, I’m getting the impression that maybe we have crossed a threshold. Many retailers are tossing out sales tag lines like “Black Friday all November” or “Pre-Black Friday Super Savings”. This was capped off by NewEgg.com sending me a promotional email this morning with the simple subject line: “Black Friday Starts Now!

Um NewEgg… it’s Monday…

So my question is: Do you think we have hit, and passed Peak Black Friday? Will the Friday after Thanksgiving become less and less of a sales focal point as more sales are driven earlier into the month of November? Will we be looking back in 10 to 15 years when all retailers start their sales on Nov 1, and laugh at the insanity of Midnight store openings on the Friday after the fourth Thursday in November?

The Mechanics of Black Friday

Christmas really does bring people together.
Christmas really does bring people together.

You can read the original post for the full context, but the short version goes like this:

The volume of goods purchased for Christmas is staggering. It literally exceeds the throughput capacity of even the largest stores. They can’t maintain enough warehouse / shipping / storage / floor space capacity to keep up with the demand.

As a result, stores want to spread those sales out as much as possible. However, American consumers won’t tolerate Christmas stuff appearing before Thanksgiving. Retailers need to take the 4-6 months worth of retail sales and fit them in the four-week window between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This creates a winner-take-all scenario where everyone fights over the day after Thanksgiving. (Black Friday.) In turn, this creates the reviled and unsightly stampede. Retailers have to participate because they can’t afford to get stuck with all of these goods. Consumers feel compelled to chase these deals because it’s the best way to make use of their money. Sure, you can skip Black Friday if you want. But then you’ll pay possibly hundreds of dollars more.

So we have a holiday dedicated to showing gratitude for what we have and celebrating family, and then the next morning we get up dawn so we can fight a mob of strangers for deals on a new Nintendo. Everyone hates this. It looks crass and stupid. It creates stress. It results in danger and damaged goods. Everyone is trapped because the only way to escape this situation is to make deliberate financial sacrifices. Either retailers pass on the most lucrative season of the year, or consumers choose to pay more for the same goods.

Like I said back in 2014, it gets a little worse every year and until now nobody knew how to stop it.

I'll admit I never really got the whole zombie-apocalypse-as-mindless-consumers metaphor until I saw images like this.
I'll admit I never really got the whole zombie-apocalypse-as-mindless-consumers metaphor until I saw images like this.

But now it looks like a shift is happening. As the person above observed, online retailers are starting their sales on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Nobody seems to be mad about this. Apparently the objection to Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving was purely aesthetic. Consumers don’t like seeing Christmas decorations this early in the year, but they’re perfectly willing to do their Christmas shopping online.

For brick-and-mortar retail outfits, this is terrible news. Anything that cuts into their sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas is going to have a brutal impact on their bottom line. Like I said in the earlier post, this sales period is when they move a third or even a half of their total sales for the year. Losing that business to online outfits is going to hurt. If a retail chain is having trouble staying afloat, this might be enough to push them into insolvency.

For the rest of us, this is great news. This needed to happen. Now that the start of Christmas shopping has moved past the Thanksgiving roadblock, it can move around until it reaches some sort of equilibrium. If we can spread those 4 weeks of extreme volume shopping over a couple of months, then that will cure a lot of the throughput problems I talked about before. Previously, the system was heavily in favor of whoever could best take advantage of huge economies of scale. The outfit with the best throughput wins. If you’ve got gargantuan warehouses, a huge fleet of delivery vehicles, spacious on-site storage, and lots of floor space, then you can more easily ramp up to meet the extreme demand. Which means the Black Friday system favored big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target and was harder on small businesses. In this new system, it’s just as easy to shop at some rando Etsy store as it is to shop at Amazon.

From our family to yours, we'd like to extend our warmest holiday greetings and invite you to MOVE YOUR ASS YOU'RE BLOCKING THE LINE HERE, BUDDY.
From our family to yours, we'd like to extend our warmest holiday greetings and invite you to MOVE YOUR ASS YOU'RE BLOCKING THE LINE HERE, BUDDY.

This new system will be more efficient, as well. Previously:

  1. Goods go from warehouse to the retail space and are unloaded.
  2. Goods are moved to shelves.
  3. I go out in my car and drive to six different stores looking for what I want. I have to fight against heavy traffic and frustrating crowds. I have to drive around for ages looking for parking. If I’m in the north, then I might have to do this while the weather is bad, which will make everything that much harder.
  4. The crowds make people feel stressed, which adds to the human cost of the whole thing. More fights, more shoving, more damaged goods, more time squandered standing in line, more people stopping to eat junk food they would otherwise avoid.
  5. Because of the physical hassle, I might not get the best deal. I know personally that after an hour of battle royale with other shoppers I stop worrying about quality and price because I just want to escape the chaos.
  6. I gather up the goods, standing in line for age, and then haul everything home.

Under this new system:

  1. I browse online for exactly the stuff I want, and I can use price aggregators to help me find the best deals.
  2. Goods go directly from the warehouse to to my house.

This system gets consumers better prices, eats less of their time, inflicts less stress, and burns less fuel. Sure, those UPS delivery trucks burn a lot of gas, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the energy expended in step #3 above. We’ve eliminated the middle staging area between the warehouse and my house. Yes, there are package-processing places between those two points, but goods are still taking a far more direct route.

I don’t think the transition is done yet. I’m sure the bulk of the shopping still takes place post-Thanksgiving. But the dam has broken and I suspect it’s only a matter of time. As consumers discover the joy of shopping online, behavior will shift. I’m sure lots of people will continue to do things the traditional way, but online shopping can act as a safety valve for all those people who don’t want to participate in the madness.

So that’s good news. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

 


From The Archives:
 

78 thoughts on “The End of Black Friday

  1. Jack V says:

    FWIW, it’s been the last few years when “black friday sales” have started to appear here in the UK, mostly in online stores so far. This upset me unreasonably much, but I was just like “if you want sales, call them sales, there’s no possible way they can be a ‘black friday’ thing because MOST PEOPLE IN THE UK DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THANKSGIVING”. But even then, I think they started to be advertised *before* black friday because in the UK that makes just as much sense.

    I do wonder, if this is an equilibrium or if the cycle will start over. How much is buying stuff on black friday or before actually reliably cheaper? Or is it too early and there will start to be a second wave of “last minute” sales in the run up to xmas (possibly post-xmas sales moving earlier?) for people who didn’t get around to their shopping yet, and the whole cycle start again? Or will online shopping act differently, be less constrained by floor space, and smear out the sales so they’re less concentrated? I have no idea.

    1. Dev Null says:

      New Zealand has them too. Its not even _autumn_ here…

  2. Wiseman says:

    My country Brazil is currently catching to the great tradition of Black Friday by marking up prices in the weekend previous to it then lowering the prices when Friday comes.

    1. nirutha says:

      Last year my local bakery in GERMANY lowered prices on Black Friday. I was aghast.

      1. PPX14 says:

        German Bakery?! Hahaha! That’s the best one yet.

    2. C__ says:

      To be fair, the most diligent stores rise up prices even months before. It is a scam, but is a thoroughly planned one!

  3. Mephane says:

    we consumers just hate the idea and insist on waiting until after the turkey is stuffed

    Isn’t that just due to the expectation of the sale? When you know that on a specific day in 2 weeks many of the things you are going to buy will be massively discounted, it would be stupid to not wait with the purchase unless it’s something you need ASAP.

  4. Artanis Niggle says:

    Struggling to understand your point, so let me restate it as I understand it.

    People prefer shopping online because it is cheaper, faster and less aggravating?

    1. Matt Downie says:

      Online sales have now taken enough business from retail stores that it solves the problem of Black Friday sales riots.

      1. CoyoteSans says:

        The problem is, as Shamus touched on, is that online sales are also solving the problem of retail stores existing. As previously stated, in the tug-of-war of consumers wanting low prices at a precise time of the year, and physical retailers wanting that demand spread out over time, something had to give. The rise of online retail was what tipped the balance, and it did so in favor of the consumers rather than brick-and-mortar stores.

        For consumers, it’s resulted in a golden age of convenience and affordability. For retail stores, it’s apocalyptic. Consumers are no longer buying their stockpile of goods throughout the year or on Black Friday. And it has indeed resulted in retail dying, as you can read story after story over the past two years of stores being shuttered all over America left and right. This has knock-on effects; for example, a Shop-and-Save near where I live has closed due to falling customer traffic. Because it anchors its strip mall, this has resulted in things like the smaller shoe store, haircut place, and even the bar-and-grill adjacent to the Shop-and-Save being forced to shut up at the same time. That strip mall is now effectively abandoned, the people who worked there either left to find employment elsewhere, or are just plain out of a job entirely.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I was also a bit confused here. Shamus started talking about how the sales being spread out over weeks or months would avoid the chaos, but then switched to online-shopping at the end. Don’t online stores generally just do (nearly) year-round good deals, with less hassle anyways? I feel like the larger change is in the in-person shopping; Online shopping is just bypassing the problem entirely.

      1. Daimbert says:

        No, they do big sales, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales (GOG, for example, is running Black Friday sales right now). I think the point would be that the online retailers are doing these sales and spreading them out longer so there’s no longer so much of a Black Friday crush. As I pointed out below, though, brick and mortar retailers are doing the same thing, so the importance of online retailers might be a bit overstated.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Fick; This was entirely my fault. I missed that the solution is shopping online, because people still don’t want in-person decorations early, not that in-person stores are opening up earlier in the year.

  5. Wangwang says:

    Great, now I hate Black Friday even more because it makes Shamus waste one post to talk about it.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    I’ve never done Black Friday shopping that’s not online, so I never had to deal with all that trouble. The worst problem I’ve had is to miss a deal because I arrived a couple of minutes late. Still, it’s good that this thing is being phased out. Having all the shopping done one day is preposterous. They should stretch it to at least a week.

    1. Here in Norway Black Friday lasts a week, and it’s promoted like weeks in advance, it’s nuts.

      There is also Cyber Monday (the Monday after the Black Friday weekend) where the online stores have their own sales thing.

      Luckily in Norway there are laws against setting prices up before sales (I think it’s 3 months), so Normally you don’t get screwed over too much.
      But there are many instances of things being offered on Black Friday that has no price cut at all, so people that are lazy thing they are on sale while they are not. No laws can protect people against stupidity.

      There are two sites in Norway, one called prisjakt.no and another called prisguiden.no they both shop the prices on products from many stores. And prisjakt (pricehunt) has a nice historical chart of the price on a product for that particular store. So you can see if a store tries to screw you or not, and you can predict sale periods by looking at last years chart statistics.

    2. TouToTheHouYo says:

      Thing is that’s what’s been happening. Black Friday was for a time just a single day. Then it took over the weekend. Then Monday. Then it started on Thanksgiving itself. Then it started extending out in some form to the week after. Now it’s starting up the week of. It’s practically two weeks of Black Friday now, depending on the retailer. At this rate it’ll consume November whole, and probably December before long.

  7. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    A few years ago I noticed that toy stores had laid a clever trap on people. They said “oh here are some cut price in October/November, buy all your kids’ toys now, you’ll be done with it!”
    Then in December they unveiled all the cool new lines of toys, and kids all wrote those toys in their Santa list. Parents were screwed.
    I haven’t noticed this happening since then, but it was as evil as it was clever.

  8. Mr. Wolf says:

    Victoria, Australia. December 1938-January 1939. 71 fatalities. 2,000,000 hectares destroyed.

    That is Black Friday. You’ll never convince me otherwise.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Yeah, by those standards most Black Fridays are really more like Off White or Very Faint Gray, at best.

  9. Daimbert says:

    I’m not sure that your focus on online retailers is right, because what I’ve noticed — in Canada, admittedly — is that the brick and mortar retailers are doing it, too, and often seem to have done it FIRST. As an example, I think it was a couple of weeks ago that I stopped into the comic book store that I occasionally frequent and saw them advertising pre-Black Friday sales. So this seems more likely to be the retailers carrying on the process and moving things back further than online retailers eating the brick and mortar retailers’ lunch.

    And I think that Black Friday started not so much because Thanksgiving was a psychological marker for Christmas shopping/shopping in general, but because it’s actually a pretty unique specific day itself. Thanksgiving in the U.S. always falls on a Thursday, and in general a Thursday right before December. What this means is that a lot of people have or take the Friday off as well if they can get it. This leaves a lot of people at home and so free to do things like shopping right around the time that lots of people start thinking about shopping for Christmas. Thus, it’s a great day to actually create that boom of shopping right when lots of people are going to be thinking about shopping anyway.

    The rise of the “Black Friday week/month” sales, I think, comes from areas where that isn’t the case. Yes, online retailers are a key case where they don’t have to worry at all if you’re at home in order to get you to buy things, but I think even for the U.S. Canada is another key case. Because Canada doesn’t have a holiday anything like U.S, Thanksgiving — our Thanksgiving is much earlier in the year and is always on a Monday so there’s no additional day that most people take off where shopping can fit — they started the whole “Black Friday Week” things a while ago. And it worked. And since there’s a lot of overlap between Canadian and American companies and retailers, this success was going to be noticed, and emulated by American retailers, in the same way as Canadian retailers started adopting “Black Friday” in the first place. Canadian retailers wanted to avoid the headaches of the overstuffed crowds and noticed that the actual day itself wasn’t a big deal, and so tried to spread the savings and crowds out a bit, and it worked for them. American retailers facing the same headaches are likely starting to do the same thing.

    There are a couple of other interesting things here, then:

    1) How far back will this spread out? So far, it seems like we aren’t going past Hallowe’en, but could that happen?

    2) How much of this spending will be IN ADDITION TO the regular Christmas shopping? The big electronics that were sold were often going to be for personal use rather than for gifts. As this spreads out, how many people are simply going to be looking for good deals rather than looking for good gifts? Using myself as an example, what I bought from that comic store I bought because I was looking to buy some of those things and it was going to be cheaper than it would be outside of the sales. I bought more than I would have otherwise because the things were cheaper. How many other people are doing that?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I think Shamus might have been making (or mixing up?) two different points, that could have been clarified more:
      1. In-person stores spread out their sales, to lessen the chaos of Black Friday.
      2. Online shopping is already so spread out throughout the year, and has such convenient shipping and sales, that it completely bypasses the hassles of shopping in person.

      1. Daimbert says:

        For the last point, though, that won’t happen if the online retailers don’t go along with the sales as well, which is why online retailers having Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday, and things like Singles Day happen.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      I don’t remember Black Friday being a thing in Canada until around 10-12 years ago–I think some of the electronics retailers might have started doing Cyber Monday a few years before that. But Boxing Day/Week (the day(s) after Christmas) seemed to be more prevalent for big electronics and furniture sales–that was the day after the big family holiday that most people have off, so they’d wake up early the day after Christmas and line up in front of Best Buy at 6 am to get a deal on a widescreen TV. I think Halloween is more the delineator of the Christmas shopping season up here: you might see some stuff start to come out after Canadian Thanksgiving in early October, but the day after Halloween you can bet most retailers are tearing down their Halloween displays and throwing up their Christmas displays.

      I used to assume it was mostly US corporate parents like Wal-Mart and Best Buy imposing it on their Canadian subsidiaries and Canadian retailers having to follow suit to compete, but now I remember that was around the time that the Canadian dollar was at or near parity with the US dollar and cross-border shopping was even more of a concern than it usually is. Probably both were factors, along with “American Black Friday madness is always highlighted by Canadian news media–why not take advantage of that cultural cachet?”

      1. Daimbert says:

        Yeah, Boxing Day was always the big one (especially since in some provinces stores had to close that day too). And again it got expanded to Boxing Week (at least in part BECAUSE often stores couldn’t open) and now even further. Stores just keep wanting to make excuses to at least CLAIM you can get some great deals [grin].

        As for Black Friday, that’s what I’d heard, too: stores near the border were losing sales to cross-border Black Friday shopping and so started offering deals then, too, but then cities an hour away would have the same problem losing customers to the stores that had big sales, and so on and so forth. But again by now most of them are having weeks long events instead of just one day.

      2. ngthagg says:

        I’d peg Black Friday being a big deal to bring more recent than that. I’ve worked at UPS for 9 years, and it wasn’t always a concern. American Thanksgiving was marked only by light shipments from the States.

        Now it’s a focal point of the year, and we expect to hit our highest volumes next week. That’s a big change from when it used to be a week or two before Christmas.

  10. “Black Friday” is a rather recent phenomenon here in Germany, as it only became popular in the past 6 years.

    This article from Deutsche Welle hits on a lot of the same points that Shamus has made: German Retailers Divided Over Black Friday Shopping Frenzy.

  11. Redrock says:

    We’ve been getting more and more Black Friday themed discounts here in Russia, from online retailers to food delivery services. No stampedes in brick-and-mortar stores, though, thankfully.

  12. A few physical stores in the town I live have stated they refuse to do any black Friday sales, they’ll keep regular prices even if that will cost them as they can’t compete with some of the insane limited sales other large stores have.
    One store even said they’ll simply close the doors on Black Friday as they’d rather take the financial hit than deal will all the madness.

    1. Ciennas says:

      Which store? I want to know who speaks after my own heart.

  13. John says:

    If people in the US hate it when retailers start putting up Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving–and to be fair we, or at least I, really, really do–why do so many retailers do it anyway? While the full Christmas onslaught doesn’t usually start until after Thanksgiving, this year I saw Christmas stuff in some stores well before Halloween. Over the years I have gradually come to see the virtue of getting all my Christmas shopping done early and out of the way so that I can actually enjoy the holiday a little, but it still irks me. One holiday at a time, people.

    1. whitehelm says:

      Stores aren’t going to want to have a fully stocked Halloween area right up to Halloween, because anything on the shelves after that will have to be put on clearance to get rid of it. Therefore the Halloween decorations stop being shipped a few weeks before Halloween. Even if it’s not going to get sold right away, something needs to be put on the newly emptied shelves as the amount of Halloween decorations goes down.
      Also, the new shelving layout (with new price tags and such) needs to be set up before the big Black Friday shipments show up in mid-November.

      1. John says:

        At my house, the day after Halloween is known as Half-Price Candy Day. It’s my very favorite not-really-a-holiday, and is more beloved than most actual holidays. If what you’re saying is true, then retailers and their increasingly efficient inventory management are trying to take that away from me. Those fiends!

        1. Vi says:

          Nooooooooo, not my Half-Price Cat-Themed Decorations Day! D:

        2. whitehelm says:

          Unless it’s obviously Halloween themed (e.g. pumpkin shaped Reeses) the extra Halloween candy just gets sold as Christmas candy, then Valentine’s candy, then Easter candy. The display boxes at my store where the large snack-size candy bags get put are pretty much the same boxes for every holiday but the color changes.

  14. Kathryn says:

    It’s occurred to me more than once that if everyone in the US did what my husband and I do – live well within our income* and never accumulate credit card debt** – then the entire economy would come crashing to the ground.

    As for shopping in a brick and mortar store on Black Friday, aw HELL no. I’ll stick with the convenience of my keyboard and mouse.

    *mostly, but there is a good reason involving children & special needs
    **except for a zero interest credit card where the debt required due to said good reason is currently being carried

    1. Daimbert says:

      I was musing about the relationship between savers and spenders that we’ve kinda short-circuited these days. When times are good, spenders spend and keep the economy going and savers save. Then, when things get so that spenders can’t spend anymore, they stop spending, prices go down, and this should tempt the savers to spend more because they’re getting good deals or the price of the things are finally low enough that it’s worth them getting it. The problem is that right now, especially with the ability to accrue debt, the times when spenders can’t spend anymore is only when the economy is going poorly and people are losing their jobs. In those sorts of situations, savers won’t spend because they want to keep their savings in case they lose their jobs. So lowering prices doesn’t provide the boost to the economy that it might normally have.

    2. BenD says:

      I feel like your asterisks betray major social problems with US economics in their own right.

      Or, put another way, having greater-than-average health, educational, or daily living needs in the US is a fast trip to carrying greater-than-average debt, and that does not seem to be true everywhere. I suspect your situation is a shockingly common reasoning behind credit card debt — not “We’re financing a new TV in the most expensive way possible short of involving the mob” but rather “There is unexpected, exceptional, valid need that no other social structure exists here to help with.”

      I’m aware I’m using a real family as an example of economic / social problems. I wish the best for you and yours. I just also wish that our “system” wasn’t set up the way you’re experiencing it.

      1. Kathryn says:

        There is plenty of assistance available to other families in our situation. We don’t qualify for it due to making too much money. It’s also a temporary situation, hence the credit card fix – we should be back to zero debt (other than mortgage and car) within two years if not one. Otherwise, we would have cut more spending and made some different choices.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      It’s occurred to me more than once that if everyone in the US did what my husband and I do – live well within our income* and never accumulate credit card debt** – then the entire economy would come crashing to the ground.

      That’s a Keynesian conceit. Other schools of economic thought place capital investment as being more important than consumer spending.

  15. Jabberwok says:

    “Which means the Black Friday system favored big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target and was harder on small businesses. In this new system, it’s just as easy to shop at some rando Etsy store as it is to shop at Amazon.”

    I don’t think I understand this part. I thought the whole point was that a lot of the shopping has moved online. If everyone’s shopping at Amazon, how is this better for small businesses than it was before?

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      A lot of small businesses sell through Amazon. Take a closer look next time you shop there- a lot of the items you see are actually sold by a third party retailer.

  16. Foster says:

    Christmas are a time to celebrate the birth of Christ (if it means anything to you).

    Not to shop.

    If you’re not a Christian you can actually skip them altogether.

    Wanna show your relatives and friends you love them? Actually do something for them, show them your care, etc. An iPhone or some new gizmo is not love, is just hypocrisy buying a relationship with money.

    How about that?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The world economy is built upon rampant consumerism. Love isn’t real unless it’s attached to a price tag. :P

  17. Duoae says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse this black Fri-

    *is crushed by a stampede of commenters*

    OT:
    I have always missed out on these sales, mostly because they’re at the wrong time for me. They’re a good week before the pay check comes in, they’re borderline iffy on whether the parcels will arrive in time to send them on to family/friends. If I choose to have them delivered directly then the presents will arrive a good three weeks before Christmas… which I feel is a bit early to be sending gifts, especially in such an impersonal manner as online shopping (it’s not like I personally went to visit and dropped them off).

    Thankfully, my family have adopted a “try not to consume” theme and “no plastic” theme this Christmas. This makes buying digital presents more palatable.

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Brick and mortar stores are going to fight back by cultivating physical good fads that are so short and/or local that you can’t respond to them with online sales. We saw it happening on a small scale with fidget spinners. The other half of the strategy is to place IP restrictions on these fad items, so that major distributors won’t risk the liability. I know it seems like a scummy option, but if it’s the only way for physical retailers to survive, then the ones who do it will, and all the others will die off.
    How do I know this will happen? Because it’s been going on in Japan for hundreds of years.

    1. TouToTheHouYo says:

      Japan’s had the internet for hundreds of years!?

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Can you elaborate on this IP restriction thing? I don’t know what you’re referring to, so a summary definition and some examples would help.

      1. Duoae says:

        I think in this instance, “IP” is short for intellectual property. It’s a bit confusing due to the inclusion of talk about the Internet. But I think what Paul is saying is that the brand or item would be exclusive to “store-x”.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Brick and mortar stores still have the convenience of not having to wait for your package to arrive. Shipping also gets expensive for a lot of online things, particularly cheap but bulky objects. I really don’t see them going away anytime soon.

      I also don’t think that fad items are an area where brick and mortar will have an advantage over the internet; it takes longer for something to work its way through Walmart’s supply chain than it does for somebody to set up a seller’s account on Amazon.

      1. Daimbert says:

        There’s also the convenience of being able to easily browse the shelves looking for what you want to buy, being able to pick it up, see how it feels, rotate it and all sorts of other things that you can’t really do online.

        You know what someone should do? Design a virtual mall where you can wander over the shelves, pick up products, rotate them, and then put them in your shopping cart to buy when you leave! It could have this wonderful entrance that you have to walk through every time you enter, and be some sort of architecturally designed, completely glass mall with all sorts of “natural” light sources to make it bright and airy! An idea like this can’t miss! [grin]

        1. Linda S says:

          Great idea! Maybe Shamus could work on it! :-)

  19. Arne Weber says:

    “Goods go directly from the warehouse to to my house”

    Except that they go individually, from different warehouses, to each costumer. Instead of bulk deliveries to the stores. It’s effectively the same.

    And that last leg is a miniscule part of the trip the goods already did, too.

    What we as a people need to do is stopping to produce and consume so much unnessecary stuff. Optimizing a tiny part of the delivery process is like worrying about the soot from a neighbour’s BBQ while you’re smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Now that we’re reaching the end of Moore Law (practically, if not technically), we might start seeing the return of repairable, non-disposable goods (at least electronics), that can last longer. I’m not holding my breath, though. A large part of our economy, is people buying disposable goods. Changing that would be a very large shift.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Electronics are iffy. Part of the “repairability” problem is that designing a phone that can be taken apart and have its parts changed out involves tradeoffs in how thin/light the device can be made. You can make something lighter and more compact if you just glue all of the parts together and print as much as possible on one circuit board, but that also makes it more difficult to take apart and repair.

        People might be willing to make some of those trade-offs if it means spending a few hundred dollars less every two-three years, but there are more factors to it than the current upgrade cycle.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Overall, it’s at least as efficient. We can prove this by looking at price: if Amazon can get the package to your door for $5 less than a local retailer, including shipping, then the overall cost of getting the product from the manufacturer to you must be lower.

      After all, the product isn’t quite going individually to each customer. It’s being processed in bulk by the postal/UPS system, and dropped off by a truck which has hundreds of packages and an optimized route. Meanwhile, it’s skipping the entire step of being unpacked, stocked, and processed by a cashier at a local retailer (who has a lot of overhead for rent, heating, lighting, etc for a physical location).

      The kind of calculations to figure out which would be cheaper would be very difficult for you or I to make, but, like I said, we don’t have to: the retailers have already done it for us, and the answer is represented by their price point.

  20. Stuart Worthington says:

    I can confirm Gamestop is also doing this. We put up all our Black Friday signage and sales and stuff last Sunday. On the other hand, I know we’ll have a couple of exclusive sales on Friday itself, so tomorrow’s probably going to hurt anyway.

  21. Drathnoxis says:

    There’s an error in your article, Thanksgiving was last month.

  22. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I’ve been seeing Christmas stuff in stores since before Halloween this year. Thanksgiving basically didn’t happen, aside from running the yearly Turkey Day race this morning and having family over to my house.

    The funny thing about this whole “Black Friday Sale” business is that, on the surface, it appears to have things backwards. Usually you use sales to engage in price discrimination- you want to sell the same product at a higher price to those willing to pay it, and a lower price to those who don’t. You need a way to separate the two groups of people, so you do things like run temporary sales, since the people who are willing to pay more will be more inclined to buy it before it goes on sale, for more immediate gratification, while those who will only buy at a lower price point will wait.

    But if you’re having problems with throughput during the Christmas shopping season, then why would you further encourage people to do their shopping during that period by lowering your prices? Usually, when demand is highest, you raise prices. It would seem to make more sense to have a sale in September, when people would need extra encouragement to engage in Christmas shopping, when your competitors’ stores are less crowded, and when thrifty shoppers would be more easily separated from more loose-spending procrastinators. Your store might wind up being less crowded in December, but that’s not a bad thing if you already captured those extra sales in September, and you can furthermore trade convenience (shorter lines and less trouble finding a parking spot than at your competitors) for slightly higher prices.

    Basically, it would (if we took a simplistic view) make the most sense to raise prices after Thanksgiving, to encourage shoppers to shop earlier.

    It would seem to point to Christmas shopping being something more than utilitarian; people just don’t need X amount of goods for Christmas, they want to Christmas Shop, even if the crowds are creating a hassle. Sales are part of the ritual, so they have to happen. People may not like the mayhem part of it, but it’s hard to separate that part from the part of the ritual that they do like, so while the two things are in conflict, it isn’t enough to get people to stop engaging in it. It also looks like retailers are fighting back by using the sales part of the ritual to drag us away from the season’s usual timeframe, but the shopping still needs to be connected to the season itself, so they still just can’t say “Look, we know Christmas isn’t for another six months, but how about you just buy the stuff now and stick it in a closet?”

    I bet you could write an entire book analyzing the social, logistical, economic, and psychological dynamics that have created the monster we know now as the Christmas Shopping Season. Maybe the Freakonomics guys could do it.

    Meanwhile, I have to go shopping for non-Christmas stuff tomorrow, and ho boy is it going to suck.

    1. Daimbert says:

      The issue is that because of Christmas people are going to increase their spending and buy more stuff, most won’t buy that stuff in September because they aren’t thinking about it yet, and so a store needs to make sure that they do that extra shopping in their store rather than in their competitors’ stores. Thus, very soon someone will have the bright idea to reduce prices in order to get more sales at their store, and then the other stores will at least have to follow suit and some of them will get the bright idea to reduce them even further to draw customers to THEIR stores, rinse, repeat.

      Yes, you generally raise prices when there’s more demand, but you lower them when there is more competition. And because Christmas is such a HUGE shopping season, there’s always HUGE competition for all of those dollars that people WILL be spending. You really, really, really want them to spend as much of it as you can get at your store.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Yes, you generally raise prices when there’s more demand, but you lower them when there is more competition.

        But your competition is actually less during the season- they’re throughput limited too, The entire point here is why reduce your prices in order to get more people into your store when you’re already having trouble keeping things on your shelves, and when your competitor’s check-out lines and parking lots are completely full?

        That’s the entire mechanism between supply and demand- prices increase because the party that is willing and capable to sell for the least can’t satiate the entire market, so buyers are forced to higher-priced providers. The lower-priced providers will eventually adjust upwards once there’s enough room between them and the highest price that is being paid on the market.

        A good comparison is ticket prices- theaters usually have a “matinee” time where they charge lower prices because not as many people go to the theater during those times. They don’t cut their prices during peak times when a super-popular movie is out, even though the same “higher competition” argument would apply (after all, their competitors are also showing the same super-popular movie).

        The whole thing only makes sense if the shopping is driven by something other than utilitarian motives.

        1. Daimbert says:

          But your competition is actually less during the season- they’re throughput limited too, The entire point here is why reduce your prices in order to get more people into your store when you’re already having trouble keeping things on your shelves, and when your competitor’s check-out lines and parking lots are completely full?

          Because for the most part all of those customers CAN get their stuff at the other stores, despite how busy they are, and so they’re going to get first crack at all of those lovely sales that you really, really want to get. People aren’t going to come to your store unless you can offer them something competitive or only to get those things that they can’t get anywhere else, and you want them doing ALL their shopping there, not just grabbing the one or two things that are sold out everywhere else.

          A good comparison is ticket prices- theaters usually have a “matinee” time where they charge lower prices because not as many people go to the theater during those times. They don’t cut their prices during peak times when a super-popular movie is out, even though the same “higher competition” argument would apply (after all, their competitors are also showing the same super-popular movie).

          Yes, but first there ARE more limitations on the product — you can’t fill more than your own theater — and so on competition, and drawing in as much of the possible market as possible is thus less of an issue. As long as there are enough people to fill all the theaters for the popular movies, everyone makes money. And for the matinees, they do that to simply draw in some extra people to the theaters when for the most part people have to be there anyway to prepare for the evening shows. For Christmas shopping, every store wants to get as high a percentage of those shoppers and what they buy as they can. Running out of items — the equivalent of having a full theater — is DISASTROUS for stores as long as there are other people out there who might want to buy their product … and in general there’s usually ALWAYS more people who want to buy things because it’s such an overwhelming cultural event.

          Really, your question is like asking why stores don’t increase the prices of their chocolates and other things for St. Valentine’s Day. And the answer is the same: this is a big event where they can really clean up on volume because of the massive volume involved in the event. So you order in as much as your storerooms can hold and encourage as many people as possible to buy stuff from you and not from your competitors, which means having an at least competitive price. Raising prices does not make you more competitive [grin].

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            Because for the most part all of those customers CAN get their stuff at the other stores, despite how busy they are,

            A customer could. But not all of them.

            Yes, but first there ARE more limitations on the product — you can’t fill more than your own theater

            You’re operating under the assumption that retail stores don’t have that same limitation. There is a point where the lines become too long. If there’s nowhere for a shopper to park, they can’t buy anything. If you run out of stock, you can’t sell it. If things are crazy crowded at every store in the city then only so many of those stores could lose their customers before the rest simply can’t serve any more.

            People aren’t going to come to your store unless you can offer them something competitive or only to get those things that they can’t get anywhere else,

            Availability and convenience are competitive. That’s why corner stores get away with higher prices- they’re closer, so they’re banking on people being willing to spend a few more bucks than to drive an extra five miles to the nearest Walmart.

            And for the matinees, they do that to simply draw in some extra people to the theaters when for the most part people have to be there anyway to prepare for the evening shows.

            But why not draw in some extra people for the evening shows? The logic doesn’t work unless you factor in limited supply.

            Running out of items — the equivalent of having a full theater — is DISASTROUS for stores as long as there are other people out there who might want to buy their product

            No it’s not. The store exists to sell things. If they sell all of their things, then they’ve succeeded. Not getting enough stock in the first place is disastrous, but the store would certainly rather sell out its entire stock of 1,000 items than only sell 900 items, and if they were never going to be able to get 2,000 items to sell then the fact that there are more than 1,000 people who want to buy isn’t hurting them. They’re not making as much money as if they could have sold 2,000 items, but they’re not making any less money. They make the same amount selling 1,000 items whether there were exactly 1,000 customer or whether there were 2,000.

            Really, your question is like asking why stores don’t increase the prices of their chocolates and other things for St. Valentine’s Day.

            St. Valentine’s Day doesn’t generate anywhere near the volume. Instead, stores just allocate a bit of extra shelf space to chocolates.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Okay, the key here is that you’re assuming that all of the stores are already selling as much as they possibly can, and so have no room to gain more if they have lower prices than their competition (or any kind of advantage over their competition). But that isn’t true, Even the big stores don’t sell out their entire Christmas inventories. Sure, a few really good deals or some special items — like the latest hot toys — sell out. but there are lots and lots of things that don’t, and that is actually a big motivation for the Boxing Day/Week sales: getting rid of the inventory that they had just in case but didn’t happen to sell. They also aren’t insanely packed for the entire Christmas shopping season. Sure, weekends and evenings, especially very close to Christmas, are, but weekdays are often pretty slow and things don’t really get crazy until closer to Christmas. Given all of this, if a competitor has lower prices than you do, then they’ll pick up sales from you. So competition is the larger driving factor in store behaviour than simple demand is.

              Maybe a store COULD either not lower or even raise prices and still get enough to make it through perfectly fine, but Christmas is such a huge shopping season that none of them want to take the chance.

              A customer could. But not all of them.

              A significant percentage of them could, which would be enough to hurt your bottom line considering how much demand you’d be giving up due to the Christmas rush.

              Availability and convenience are competitive.

              Yes, but convenience stores are generally there for desperate need or don’t actually have higher prices than their competitors. In the Christmas season, you REALLY don’t want to be the store that everyone goes to when they have no where else to go. You don’t want to pick up the dregs. As an example, if you’re more expensive than your competitors, and they look and see that the lines are long and the parking lot is full, unless it’s the last minute why would they go to your presumably more empty store instead of trying to find a time to come back to the more popular and cheaper store when it’s less busy?

              No it’s not. The store exists to sell things. If they sell all of their things, then they’ve succeeded. Not getting enough stock in the first place is disastrous …

              Which was what I was aiming at with that: you want to be able to sell as much as you can possibly sell. Yes, there are physical restrictions, but if you run out of things when there are more customers who would buy them in general that’s bad for you and you really wanted to sell things to those other customers, too. It’s only if you are selling as much as you possibly could that you’re content. This is also why movie theatres don’t push for more people at their evening shows: they think they’re getting as much audience as they can already.

              For Christmas shopping, pretty much all stores want to sell as much as possible since there’s such a high demand, and they AREN’T selling as much as they possibly can overall right now. Thus, the fear of competition keeps prices low.

  23. Sniffnoy says:

    But now it looks like a shift is happening. As the person above observed, online retailers are starting their sales on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Nobody seems to be mad about this. Apparently the objection to Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving was purely aesthetic. Consumers don’t like seeing Christmas decorations this early in the year, but they’re perfectly willing to do their Christmas shopping online.

    For brick-and-mortar retail outfits, this is terrible news. Anything that cuts into their sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas is going to have a brutal impact on their bottom line. Like I said in the earlier post, this sales period is when they move a third or even a half of their total sales for the year. Losing that business to online outfits is going to hurt. If a retail chain is having trouble staying afloat, this might be enough to push them into insolvency.

    It seems like the obvious solution here for physical retailers is to start the sales earlier but not put up Christmas decorations till later. Like, why do sales-in-anticipation-of-Christmas, and Christmas decorations have to go together? There’s no necessary connection here. Just decouple them. Am I missing something here?

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      See my comment above. I highly suspect that Christmas shopping is an end unto itself, rather than a case of shoppers needing a fixed quantity of goods for December 25th.

    2. Daimbert says:

      Only really organized people will shop for Christmas before the Christmas season is in full swing, because they won’t be thinking about Christmas until then. For example, if you’re thinking about Hallowe’en and are in that mode of building towards being scared and doing horror-style things, you’re not likely in the mood to think about Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men, and buying that perfect gift to give the important people in your life joy. The decorations going up is part of reminding everyone and getting them into the mindset of Christmas, along with Christmas carols on the various radio stations and in the stores and ads for Christmas stuff on TV.

      If you try to push that to too early in the year, people get annoyed that Christmas is encroaching on other things and minimizing them or hurting their enjoyment of them, because they start seeing the things that are normally part of the Christmas season when they aren’t ready for them.

      What I think retailers have discovered is that while people don’t really want to do CHRISTMAS shopping that early, surrounded by all the normal signs of Christmas, they are perfectly willing to SHOP that early … and Black Friday specials, as it turns out, aren’t really tagged as “Christmas” for most people. Some people will do at least some of their Christmas shopping then, but some people will just take it as a day or days to go out and buy stuff. That lets them push it earlier without really triggering a “Christmas specials too early!” backlash. I know that in Canada, Black Friday specials have never been specifically Christmas specials, even though people are usually starting to think about Christmas then because our Thanksgiving is earlier than it is in the U.S. and so we are already able to start looking ahead to the next big holiday.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Only really organized people will shop for Christmas before the Christmas season is in full swing, because they won’t be thinking about Christmas until then.

        That really only supports my theory. If Christmas shopping is utilitarian (I need X number of presents for December 25th), then it would be treated more as a budget planning issue, in the same way that shopping for cheaper car insurance would be. It wouldn’t matter if they wanted to be thinking about Christmas or not- it’s a big enough chunk of their yearly expenditures to be on their minds regardless.

        you’re not likely in the mood to think about Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men, and buying that perfect gift to give the important people in your life joy.

        Again, this sounds more like the fun of shopping itself- and not the need for the goods- is driving the experience.

        I don’t know what the stores look like in Canada right now, but the stores where I live have had Christmas stuff on the shelves since before Halloween. It’s absolutely Christmas shopping down here.

        1. Daimbert says:

          That really only supports my theory. If Christmas shopping is utilitarian (I need X number of presents for December 25th), then it would be treated more as a budget planning issue, in the same way that shopping for cheaper car insurance would be. It wouldn’t matter if they wanted to be thinking about Christmas or not- it’s a big enough chunk of their yearly expenditures to be on their minds regardless.

          The thing is that Christmas shopping itself is part of the whole season and feeling of Christmas to people. Many of them go to the mall, do some Christmas shopping, take the kids to see Santa, and so on and so forth. So it’s NOT merely that they need X presents, but that they need X CHRISTMAS presents, and are going to do their Christmas shopping. It’s hard to get in the mood to do actual Christmas shopping if you’re not in the Christmas season.

          Again, this sounds more like the fun of shopping itself- and not the need for the goods- is driving the experience.

          Yes, but that fun is all bundled up with the entire package of the Christmas season, hence the need for them to be in the Christmas mood to do it specifically for their Christmas shopping most of the time.

          I don’t know what the stores look like in Canada right now, but the stores where I live have had Christmas stuff on the shelves since before Halloween. It’s absolutely Christmas shopping down here.

          You need to look not just at what’s on the shelves, but what is being advertised and HOW it’s being advertised. Most of the Black Friday ads and sales I’ve seen have not focused on shopping for Christmas nor have they focused on Christmas products. Sure, some of them are there or advertised, but it’s not predominant. Yes, the stores are going to look like Christmas, but they won’t be advertising these things as Christmas deals until December.

          1. Bloodsquirrel says:

            The thing is that Christmas shopping itself is part of the whole season and feeling of Christmas to people. Many of them go to the mall, do some Christmas shopping, take the kids to see Santa, and so on and so forth. So it’s NOT merely that they need X presents, but that they need X CHRISTMAS presents, and are going to do their Christmas shopping. It’s hard to get in the mood to do actual Christmas shopping if you’re not in the Christmas season.

            You’re still failing to answer the basic question here: if people would rather Christmas shop closer to Christmas, then why would you run a sale at that time? And- no- the fact that other stores are running sales doesn’t answer the question. The other stores could be running sales the entire rest of the year, too.

            Are you familiar with supply and demand curves? In order to explain why prices fall during Christmas, it would have to indicate that either the supply curve or the demand curve has shifted, thus putting the optimal price at a lower point. There’s no clear reason why the supply curve would shift in the direction of being able to offer goods more cheaply, and there’s no obvious reason why the demand curve would shift to decrease the amount that consumers are willing to pay for goods.

            If people are buying a product for $100 for eleven months of the year, why would they only be willing to pay $80 for it at the time when they most want to do their shopping, and when the need for the item is most urgent?

            You need to look not just at what’s on the shelves, but what is being advertised and HOW it’s being advertised.

            Some stores are as much as 1/4 Christmas stuff right now. They’re playing Christmas music over the loudspeakers. They’ve got the “Meet Santa” stuff up at the mall. There’s no two ways about it- the stores are deep, deep into selling the Christmas feeling.

            And when I say “Christmas stuff”, I mean a lot of stuff that is pure Christmas kitsch. Not just stuff that would make a good present, but decorations, Christmas clothing, stockings, and all other manner of stuff that is specifically selling for the season itself. Christmas-flavored scented candles aren’t something you buy because it was on a carefully pre-planned present list. It’s an impulse buy that’s based on being in the Christmas spirit.

            1. Daimbert says:

              You’re still failing to answer the basic question here: if people would rather Christmas shop closer to Christmas, then why would you run a sale at that time?

              Because you want them to do their Christmas shopping at YOUR store and not at your competitors’ store. You don’t want to only get the last few items that they didn’t or couldn’t get there.

              If people are buying a product for $100 for eleven months of the year, why would they only be willing to pay $80 for it at the time when they most want to do their shopping, and when the need for the item is most urgent?

              Because there’s a store selling it for $80, which then is where they’ll go to buy it. They still want to minimize the amount of money they spend, you know.

              Some stores are as much as 1/4 Christmas stuff right now. They’re playing Christmas music over the loudspeakers. They’ve got the “Meet Santa” stuff up at the mall. There’s no two ways about it- the stores are deep, deep into selling the Christmas feeling.

              Yes, the Christmas season is starting and people are starting to get into the mood for Christmas shopping. Sure. But the presumption about Black Friday sales has always been that it was for Christmas shopping itself, and then people pondered how much you could push that Christmas shopping back itself without annoying people. And yet, most of the ads, at least from what I’ve seen, have now simply talked about Black Friday and not about Christmas at all, and yet people STILL buy. This has allowed them to push Black Friday back even further — Black Friday week sales, for example — without annoying them. Shamus commented that maybe people WILL think about Christmas earlier than that, but my hypothesis has been that they AREN’T really doing Christmas shopping on Black Friday. They’re just shopping. Sure, they MIGHT buy Christmas things that are not, but that’s not why they’re there. They just want a good bargain and this promises good bargains. Thus, since they AREN’T appealing to Christmas shopping there’s no reason to worry that they’ll get upset at pushing Christmas shopping earlier. They’ll go do their Christmas shopping in December when they’re in the spirit, except for those few who want to get it out of the way early.

  24. RCN says:

    Ah, Black Friday.

    The latest US tradition Brazil is trying (and failing somewhat) to copy because… hey, it is American so therefore it is better than what we have.

    Since the late 2000s several large Brazilian stores have tried to sell the idea of Black Friday to the masses. “Everything is on sale! We are trying to finish out stock! Get in or be left behind!”

    Except it is all a blatant lie. And as much as stores are trying to sell it, people just keep lukewarm at best about it because no-one is seeing any actual discounts to drive people into the seles frenesi you see in the US. And the main reason is because Brazilian salesmen are like the EA board: amazingly greedy but impossibly dumb. I know people in retail who told me that their bosses would rather throw away a $ 10 000 electronic than sell it for even a cent less than $ 10 000. Even if they already met their profit targets. Worse yet, even if they DIDN’T.

    It got to the point that Black Friday has sort of become a bad joke among Brazilians. It works like this: as the weeks start to approach Black Friday, the pricetags of certain sought-after items start to subtly increase. A suit store will have one of its storefront suits go from $ 999 to $ 1 099, then to $ 1 199. Then to $ 1 399. And when black friday comes, lo and behold: it is now 30% off from $ 1 449 to $ 999! That X-Box One you were looking for is now being sold for $ 1 199! Yes, it was $ 1 199 last month, but, you know, inflation, that’s why it says it was $ 1 999 in the tag. Yes we had a inflation of 65% in a single month, haven’t you noticed?

    And that’s the best-case scenario. It is more likely you’ll find a price tag INCREASING in price… AFTER the discount. Because these stores expect more people coming to do shopping, so why sell it for less when you can sell it for more?

    Yes, there are consumer laws. No, they don’t matter because people don’t bother to look them up and act on them and in the end you are very unlikely to get anything done so even people who know the law don’t bother.

    Now, there is a slight increase of sales during black friday. Some people just do get duped. But it is certainly a far cry from the people-stampedes of the US, with store owners ordering their employees to build up the hype and main the floodgates only for a moderate crowd to calmly walk in once they are opened.

    1. RCN says:

      Now I look stupid for saying it isn’t catching on when I notice the third picture in the article (the zombie-consumerism metaphor one) is from a Brazilian supermarket.

      Oh well…

  25. Dragmire says:

    Delivery people get kinda screwed. With all the demand shipping companies are setting their staff with one driver per vehicle. The problem is that people are getting large heavy items delivered which should be lifted by 2 people. Bar fridges, workout equipment, chairs etc.. delivery people are (indirectly/legal loophole-y) to ignore the “team lift” signs because a second person to help lift is 1 less vehicle out for delivery and the volume of stuff to deliver is too great to make that sacrifice.

    God only knows how customs gets through their workload(they don’t, regular mail with low priority won’t get through for months…)

  26. ccesarano says:

    I always feel weird when these sorts of discussions and posts come up because for….goodness, seven or eight years now I’ve been part of the problem. However, I’ve been part of the more egregious problem of shopping [i]on Thanksgiving day[/i], and maybe that itself is a difference. I also have no doubt that the type of area you live in might contribute, but ever since I started Thanksgiving shopping in 2010 or 2011 I’ve never seen a single stampede. I think I only saw one screaming mother barking orders at her kids to grab that limited edition Shouty Suzy Doll before someone else does in all those years.

    Otherwise, I recall standing outside in line of a GameStop waiting for them to open and talking video games with the other shoppers. I had a friendly conversation with strangers inside Wal-Mart as we tried to figure out where everything was sorted, asking each other what we were there for. I got to taste a hot chocolate spiked with Bailey’s from an Irish grandma visiting her son and his family for the holidays waiting to get into Target. As the years continued I got to shop with my sister, helping to brainstorm and snag things for her family or get a second opinion on whether this item would be a good fit for mom or not.

    This year I spent a lot of time standing in line at the Best Buy and was feeling exhausted for my own reasons, but I saw a lot of smiling couples, groups of friends, or families gathered and interacting. None of the violent, screaming behavior you usually see in videos and the news. Some of those dead-eyed stares, certainly, and I still feel bad for the employees. I’m wondering if it’s possible to create some sort of licensed service capable of providing some sort of catering to retail employees that have to work Thanksgiving night, though you’d likely need a lot of capital for such a non-profit endeavor.

    Nevertheless, despite knowing it is a part of this consumerist machine, I cannot hate Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales… though Thanksgiving night is also the last time the traffic is even somewhat “sane”. After that I tend to stick to online sales when I can.

    Small Business Saturday seems to have become a thing, and I have a couple shops I’ll be checking out tomorrow to help support and contribute. It’ll be interesting to talk to some of them about it.

    Regardless, this comment is rather off-topic from your post, and sadly I don’t know enough about business to argue or support it one way or another aside from shops like Best Buy having some items available “in-store only”. In fact, that’s the only reason I went out to Best Buy last night was to snag a half-priced MSRP $60 game for my friend for Christmas, and Amazon’s price wasn’t matched. Not yet, at least. So I grabbed the item, snagged one other thing for my nephew, and spent the majority of my time in line (which, I think, is where it pays to go with family or friends). So retail stores are adapting in their own way, I think, and Amazon seems unwilling or incapable of matching every price out there.

    That said, I also started Christmas shopping in August and am almost completely done with it, so.

    I dunno. I guess I just wanted to be a voice of defense for this silly, consumerist intrusion into a holiday about gratitude.

  27. Anachronist says:

    The Black Friday mobs haven’t ended yet.

    It happened that my 9-year-old son wanted to skate one last time in his Heely shoes before retiring them (they are now a bit tight on him). So we headed out to a nearby shopping mall because the floors are smooth and large. We had ordered a new computer chair from Amazon that morning, but didn’t really find anything else we wanted (figuring that waiting for “cyber Monday” would be more fruitful). So, we forgot the fact that it was Black Friday.

    Oh, man. As we approached the mall, traffic slowed to a crawl. I tried taking a road around to the back parking lot and that was also a crawl. Some roads to residential areas had been blocked off so cars couldn’t go through them. We realized this was a Black Friday mob, but we couldn’t escape the gridlock. It took us 30 minutes to free ourselves from it and we never even saw the mall parking lot! We ended up going to a nearby Target that had plenty of parking and ample smooth floors. My son was happy.

    Black Friday will be around for a few more years, I bet.

  28. Jabrwock says:

    As a Canadian, with Thanksgiving in Oct, Black Friday was both baffling and understandable. We have the same visceral reaction to seeing Christmas sales prior to Nov 11 (Remembrance Day). The thought of stores even putting up Christmas decorations when you’re supposed to be remembering the dead from war was just WRONG.

    However it’s baffling that they couldn’t just put things on sale. Put the flashy decorations away until after Nov 11th/Thanksgiving, but still have sales prior. Just don’t be so crass as to have a “Remembrance Day Sale”. It was a bunch of big-box US-based stores, but still, they HAD to know it was the equivalent of offering 20% “in honour of 9/11”, I really hope some marketers got fired over that.

  29. Nametag Lanyard says:

    I work the retail scene, and can point out that, while this does cut back a bit on the madness, the iconic “Black Friday Stampede” will never go away. Here’s why:

    Brick and mortar stores have the “Doorbusters”- limited stock items that are marked down stupidly low. (It’s only $4.99! I’ll get 12 of these lamps!) While Online deals are also present to drive sales, they can and will have store-specific items on sale that you have to go in to buy.
    Doorbusters can be isolated to the Friday (or Thursday, for the soulless companies still making us work), which means they not only will make you come in ASAP for the deal, but you have to WAIT for the CORRECT DAY of the sale, before what you really want is the BEST deal. Some stores are less specific, only marking things down 30-40% for the week, but 50% or more on Black Friday.

    And before anyone asks, layaways, holds and rain checks are pretty much null and void. Don’t ask.

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I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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