Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Black Friday (or Black Thursday?)

Black Friday... what an ironic name. It's supposed to be a "positive" moniker, but I relish the fact that it has a very gloom and doom sound to it! In fact, it makes me think of Black Tuesday in Oct. '29, when the stock market crashed and all hell broke loose. Can you tell I'm not a fan? Actually, up until this year, I really didn't care about Black Friday (BF) one way or the other. What made me choose sides this year was all the stores that think it's necessary to open at midnight, if not earlier, on Thanksgiving in order to "stay competitive" (that was the reason given by the big cheese at Target).

Seriously? How does this make these stores more competitive? How is this going to add to their bottomline? It's always all about the bottomline, isn't it?

Like I said, I'm not a shopper, and especially not a Black Friday shopper, but if I were I think I'd be kinda pissed. Most BF shoppers I know make an event out of the kick-off to the holiday shopping season. They strategically plan their route based on the specials being offered by the different stores. Somewhere midday when their dogs are barking and their stomachs growling they enjoy a celebratory lunchfeast along the way, and then it's back to the trenches.

Now these diehard BF shoppers will face a dilemma this year. Do they hit the midnight sales and keep going until breakfast when they can no longer keep their eyes open? Do they hit one midnight sale, catch 40 winks and then hit the ground running again just as the sun begins to peep over the horizon? Or do they put in a 12 to 18 hour marathon spree pushing through until lunch or perhaps even dinner? And in the end, will they actually buy more than they would have had the stores waited until the typical 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. opening times or about the same amount?

If they choose to hit the midnight sales, will they leave the Thanksgiving table early? Will they get any sleep before venturing out? Do you or I, or anyone for that matter, want to be on the road that night or anytime the next day with people driving around in zombie like states from being awake anywhere between 24 and 36 hours? If you've ever been up for that many hours straight, you know how foggy your thinking becomes and how dulled your reaction times. And what about sharing the road with drunk drivers leaving the bars at 2:00 a.m.?

We live in a litigation-happy society. Wanna places bets on how long it will take for the first lawsuit to be filed against the stores for an accident that was caused by the sleeplessness of the crazed BF shoppers? And how about crime? Under the cover of darkness, with trunks laden down with all sorts of MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT goodies, won't criminals just have a heyday?

All this fun, and I haven't even touched on the impact on employees. The other morning on the radio two hosts were debating the issue. One felt it wasn't fair to the employees, the other essentially said 'suck it up', plenty of people work the holidays such as the police and the military. I can agree with her on that... also working are folks at hotels, hospitals and some restaurants. HOWEVER, when you sign-on for those jobs, working the holidays and even overnight comes with the territory, you expect it, and you know that sometimes you'll get the holiday shift and sometimes you won't. You arrange your sleeping schedule to coincide with your work schedule. Your family and friends expect it too and will make adjustments as well.

But now you have all of these retail employees that have taken jobs at places that have day and evening hours, who now are being called in to work an overnight shift that does NOT come with the territory. While police, fire, hospitals and other public services are necessary around the clock, I would argue that retail stores are not serving a greater purpose by opening overnight. The employees, for fear of losing their jobs by-and-large, are going to work these shifts whether they want to or not. How many of them are going to sleep through Thanksgiving day vs. staying awake for 24 hours? I wouldn't want to share the road with them either, would you?

The bottomline is this... GREED and the retailers are preying on our senstivity to the "weak economy" as their excuse to play this silly little game. I hope, I really truly hope, that some or all of the following happens:
  • people don't abandon their families at the holidays in the name of a "good deal"
  • people avoid shopping at the stores that are playing this game, at least on Black Friday
  • people hit one midnight special and then go home until morning, making these stores 'ghost towns' during the overnight hours
  • the stores end up paying more in salaries and overhead costs than they make on sales from midnight to 6:00 a.m.
And last but not least, I hope beyond hope that no one is trampled in a store, that no employees are injured by rushing crowds, that no serious accidents or loss of life occur as a result of 'zombie' drivers, and that the retailers reevaluate their decision and declare this experiment a bust.

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