Hoist the Sales Matey! 'Tis Black Friday!
I'm sure we're all quite familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday, and if we aren't, we can all go back and read last year's Thanksgiving essay. I don't want to re-tread old ground (although don't think I won't, if you push me! Don't make me stop this essay, kids!).
Of course, things are different, year upon year. For example, after last year's ham proved to us that this whole global warming fiasco could have been avoided if we'd just aerosolized smoked pork products and replaced the Freon in our air conditioning units, this year we returned to the traditional turkey dinner, complete with stuffing.
On a side note, for all of you who call it “dressing”, please take a good look at your turkey. Does it look even REMOTELY dressed? Not only are we not content with the poor bird's naked body on display for all to see, we feel obliged to strip off it's natural covering. It's like if you went to a funeral, and not only was the deceased starkers, but someone had felt it necessary to shave off all of their bodily hair. Perhaps not such a bad thing for certain corpses (here I'm thinking of Angelina Jolie), but for every one of those, there are hundreds of Roseannes, Rosie O'Donnells and, frankly, people like me, people who have clearly already made several too many trips back to dine on the poor embarrassed turkey and should not now be viewed (living or dead) in less material than is used in your average corporate summer picnic tent. And who, come to think of it, contain enough bodily hair to entirely consume what meager estate we may have paying for depilatory service.
However, I didn't start this to talk about bald, dead fat people. That's just a perk. What I wanted to talk about this year is something that's become something of a new tradition for me: The Black Friday early morning sales.
Black Friday, for those who don't obsessively keep up on the latest media nomenclature for events we've all known about since we heard mom swearing about them through her uterine wall, is what popular culture has taken to referring to the day after Thanksgiving as, on the grounds it is the heaviest shopping day of the year. Recent studies have indicated that it is not actually true, but the problem is that the studies based their findings on numbers of transactions and volumes of sales receipts. You must understand that when they say “heaviest shopping day of the year”, they mean in metric tonnage of patrons, still digesting truly enormous quantities consumed the day before and out shopping (between picking up initial Christmas presents) for a new wardrobe, or at least some underwear in a size large enough not to be completely lost in the various cracks and crevices in what we tell ourselves were our formerly svelte bodies.
In recent years, however, the various retail outlets have decided that if they can get a significant fraction of that tonnage through their doors on Friday, using crowbars, they can guarantee a prosperous holiday season. And you only think I'm kidding about the crowbars. Take a good look at the door of your favorite retail establishment as you go shopping over the next few weeks and you'll find a white, greasy residue. That's not the result of someone over zealously lubing the electric sliding doors nor some freak accident involving a jar of Crisco, a fire cracker and a very surprised night watchman. No, that is the unfortunate mixture of residual lard liberally spread to help ease the passage of customers mixed with copious amounts of turkey fat and gravy exuding from the pores of the most portly among us. Really. It's a horribly disgusting display of our avarice in this country, plus it tastes really great on crackers. Don't ask me how I learned this.
But here's the deal: Each year, the stores open earlier and earlier in the morning, the sale items get more and more extreme, and the shoppers start lining up more and more ahead of opening time. Things like entire computer systems for pocket lint and a wad of freshly chewed Dentine Classic, for which people begin lining up in the sub freezing air at midnight the night before in preparation for a 5am opening. One day I fully expect to read that someone is offering an entire sub-continent to the first shopper willing to part with a few molecules of belly-button lint, and people will start lining up for a 3am opening as early as 1950.
Not the military time, the year.
The reason people line up so early is that you may have noticed that most sales at most stores involve what is known as “profitable” items offered at heavily marked down prices, but not as heavily as they were previously marked UP, so the customers walk away feeling like they've gotten a heck of a bargain, the retailer snickers all the way to the bank, and everyone is happy. In these instances, generally when the retailer runs out of the item in question, he or she is willing to put on an act about how selling things at this price is killing his business and, with much faux-bellyaching, write out a “rain check” good for the sale price on the item, handing it to the customer knowing full well that 9 out of 10 customers will forget they have said rain-check until the day after it expires.
Not so with Black Friday sales. Black Friday sale items consist largely of what is called in the retail world “loss leaders”, which means that “The retailer is going to lose record amounts of money this season, and the losses they take on these items will lead the way for continued losses later”. As a result, you've probably noticed the tiny print in the sale ads that say “While supplies last” or “Limited to stock on hand” or “Good luck finding any in stock, sucker!” and the even smaller print that says “Guaranteed to have a minimum of two available in your timezone, unless for some reason you don't live in Alaska”.
That's right, the retailers of America have decided that the best way to get us all to purchase the majority of our holiday gifts at their establishments is to lie to us, recognizing that in the stupor of turkey-induced near coma, we'll get to the store, be momentarily annoyed to find that the advertised full central air conditioning unit (including installation) for $7.95 has sold out, and then immediately say “Oh well, it was nice of them to cheer me up with the ad implying that I could actually purchase such a thing, I think I shall reward them by buying large quantities of expensive electronics at exorbitant prices for every person on my list plus a few random politicians to thank them for spending ever more of my tax dollars on important travel to the Caribbean. Plus 'Franking', whatever that is.”
I don't know why they think we're so stupid that we won't through see their game. I certainly was not fooled, I only went over to get on line an hour early for opening time because I'd been unable to sleep the night before, because I'd spent the night being afraid I wouldn't wake up in time to be an hour early to get on line for opening.
This was, I should point out, really smart of me. My children from my first marriage only come out to visit me on those rare occasions during the school year when they have sufficient vacation time from school to make the trip worthwhile, and so the day after Thanksgiving is usually my last day with them before they fly back to their mother's house, and some years this represents the last time I'll see them until they've grown at least another two inches, or the start of summer, whichever comes first. (Don't ask about Christmas. My divorce lawyer apparently got his legal training via smoke signals on a windy day and never thought to include Christmas in the official list of vacations during which I should get to see the children). And so, of course, after spending well over a thousand dollars to fly them out for 7 days time, there's no better way to spend the last of those 7 days than dozing off every 15 minutes or so due to not having any any appreciable sleep in about 36 hours.
At least there's a good reason for it. The computer system I'd seen advertised sold out a mere 30 people ahead of me in line (I was 35th).
Copyright © November 25, 2006 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com