Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Black Friday is getting to be more like a plane crash every year in that it's the bad experiences that get reported. Planes take off and land every day; folks do their Black Friday shopping every year. It's just the crashes and the bad behavior that get the ink.

I guess you find what you look for, or at least figure in that demented journalistic way that it's what isn't normal that gets reported. This, unfortunately and I think intentionally, creates a warped view of the world as a whole, as the bad stuff gets emphasized. If one sees nothing but bad behavior in the news, one assumes that the only kind of behavior out there is bad behavior. One's own sense of superiority and entitlement on looking down on others also kicks in. If you're looking for the bad in humanity and get a confirmation of what you expect to see, then you are absolutely right, even if the view you're being presented is skewed incredibly towards the bad. It's a rare occasion for a plane to crash, but when it does, it's news. The planes that take off and land without incident aren't news, apparently. So good behavior on Black Friday isn't news, because -- let's face the truth here -- it's the norm.

Michelle and I went to our local Wal-Mart this morning because of on item -- a $18 microwave. We have a microwave, but we live the sheltered kind of life that leads us to believe that if an appliance is broken it can be repaired. We've got a good repairman, but apparently the part he needs to fix the machine has to be ordered from Elbonia and they can't get the plane out of the mud. So we decided to buy an emergency backup microwave so we can do the sundry things that a microwave allows: Heating food and popping popcorn. Personally, the latter is much more important to me than the former, but that's just me talking.

So we got to Wal-Mart just before 5 am, expecting bedlam. There was no line at all. They let the hordes in a half hour early so they could begin their shopping. Some weren't after the hot-ticket items and so were happily perusing the aisles. Those who were after the biggies were waiting, patiently, by the piles of bounty for 5 am and the starting whistle of the Wal-Mart crew, before the grabbing began. Yes, I said actually waiting. Some had their hands on the merchandise, others did not. But no where in the store did I see anyone grabbing anything early. It was all being guarded, of course, by associates with no more weaponry than stern looks, roped-off aisles and hand-lettered signs saying "Not available until 5 am. This was civility personified. People were laughing, helping each other, for example, find the right size of kids' boots they wanted. Nobody was mad.

Even after the whistles blew, bedlam did not ensue. Sure, people scooped stuff up, but civilly, without hitting or elbowing or body-checking. Nothing at all like that. Friendly-like.

Waiting in line was the worst, just for the wait, not because of any bad behavior. We happened to be in line just in front of the lady who bought our van about a month ago. We talked about the van and other topics, joking with those around us about the crowds and the frenzy, but nobody got mad. Nobody shoved in line. We got through quickly enough Michelle decided she wanted to dive back into the store for another item.

I took our stuff out to the Pilot, encountering on the way a young couple trying to squeeze a 50-inch LCD TV into the trunk of their very small sedan. Soon enough we had the TV loaded in the Pilot and I was chatting with the guy as his wife drove us out to their apartment complex on the other side of town. So there were good vibrations and happiness and flowers and rainbows coming out of everyone's bums this morning.

Capitalism, I have to say, behaved exceptionally well for us this morning. Take that, Karl Marx.

Update: A day later, grudgingly admits that shoppers and retailers behaved themselves, though it appears they, too, were waiting for the bloodshed:
Although Black Friday seemed to be missing the usual mayhem associated with it, the good news for merchants was that shoppers eagerly spent money on toys, cashmere sweaters, Snuggie blankets and gadgets at juicy discounts.

Compared to previous years, Cohen said the Black Friday atmosphere appeared to "be more tame."

"Look, retailers have been educating consumers for days before Black Friday on what their deals are going to be and on what items," said Cohen. "That's partly why we're not seeing the frenziness."

To his point, although the Toys R Us flagship store in Times Square had lines that were hundreds deeps for its midnight opening on Black Friday, it wasn't unruly at any point.
At least one can assume since they use New York City as an example, they were anticipating an urban or at least a suburban ruckus. More to the point, however, I'd like to point out that once again those writing and being quoted in the story are assuming that bad behavior -- perhaps not bloodshed, but shoving, screaming, cursing, et cetera -- is the norm, which, as I have already said, it is not. And some may sneer at the Snuggies, but at least people weren't buying Bumpits.

From what we saw: Gigantic packages of picture frames, big-screen TVs and digital picture frames (at $54 a pop, no less; why I have to ask) were the most sought-after items. And towels. Cartloads of towels at our local Wal-Mart, in Rainbow Brite colors.

What drives me to participate in Black Friday? The uniqueness of it all. Seeing all those crowds filling the stores, piling carts to the ceiling, waiting bored in the checkout lines. And that thrill of the bargain. It kind of harks back to our hunter-gatherer days, though it's hard to imagine why our ancestors would have hunted and gathered digital photo frames and cheap towels. But I have to imagine that some of the H-Gs came home with some meat and also some worthless junk -- skulls, feathers, horns, et cetera -- that they could "find something to do with" at home. Maybe hang it on the wall.

No comments: