As Thanksgiving has been approaching, naturally most of the radio/tv/web ads have been concerned with trying to get me to buy something, checking items off my Christmas shopping list as quickly as possible so I can get to the important stuff, like watching Elf and drinking egg nog. What has been a little unique about this year, though, is that I think Black Friday, once the hallmark of every retail store's year, is disappearing.
The ads started about a week ago, with most of the online shops claiming to provide Black Friday-calibur deals early. Amazon.com of course lead the pack in this endeavor, who, by the way, have kicked out the greatest pillars in the collapse of Black Friday with their Prime Two-Day Shipping (and in some cities, Two-Hour Shipping!); for who would bare the crowds of a busy mall when he or she can wait mere hours and get the same item for cheaper? Last year was the first time Prime shipping really affected things I think, which I realized as I daily saw mail carriers sprinting through my apartment complex to deliver the plethora of packages. Maybe this year I'll set up a stand with little cups of Gatorade for their surely thirsty throats.
The brick-and-mortar stores are responding by simply opening up earlier and earlier, to the point where "Black Friday Doorbusters" are happening on Thursday, giving families just enough time to eat an early supper before heading off to the malls. But what about their employees who have to arrive hours before the evening opening? I suppose they are mere casualties in the frantic rush to take our money just a little faster than the other guys (but still not faster than Amazon). Today I heard a radio ad for Kohl's, revealing their intention to open on Thanksgiving day at 6pm, with fervor citing this year as the "Best Black Friday Ever." So good I guess it has to start on Thursday...
There is hope though, for just a few ads before that one I heard Ross/TJ Maxx/ Marshall's boasting that they will be closed on Thanksgiving so their employees can spend time with their families. And this is where I hope most stores will land in the near future -- realizing that stealing our holiday to make more money may draw in some, but the majority just can't stomach the loss of something so sacred in exchange for mere objects -- it's like trading turkey for tofu just because it's a good deal. Besides, if Amazon keeps up their trend in speedy shipping, it may literally take longer to go to Best Buy for the Playstation 6, and thus the final nail in the coffin of big box stores will have been dealt.
But wait...why is this cynical post about the problems with American consumerism titled "A Lament for Black Friday?" Wasn't Black Friday the ultimate example of everything that is wrong with the system, and so its downfall can only mean good things for families and time and togetherness and pretty much everything but turkeys themselves? Yes. But if I'm being honest, as I watch Black Friday disappear I can't help but find myself a little...sad.
My first Black Friday purchase. I'll never forget how a grown woman cut me in line at the Wal-Mart before I got it.
I remember not ten years ago, sitting around after a hearty Thanksgiving supper -- the men were enjoying football, the kids playing hide-and-seek, and the moms were checking the paper to scope out the deals for the next day's shopping endeavor. I remember how they made their game plan that night, and (sometimes) early on those fateful Fridays, shook off the food coma to spend some time shopping...together. Yes, sisters, cousins, aunts and sometimes even sons and husbands would go out together to buy things for each other. A quick lunch at the mall food court (again, together) and then a couple more hours of shopping before they would finally part ways to go home for some much-needed rest.
As I got older, I would sometimes venture out early to catch a deal or two; other times easing my way into the afternoon, voluntarily forfeiting the really good deals for leftovers, but still catching the last remaining hints of holiday buzz that wafted through the air like crumpled receipts and stray plastic bags. Yes, it was cheesy and capitalistic and not really important in the overall course of human history, but it was fun. And so, as I watch those days I once took for granted slowly dissipate like the exhaust of a tired delivery-person's overworked truck, I can't help but be a little sad.
In the end it's probably a good thing. Black Friday had become a day that had gotten a little out of hand when fathers started skipping Thanksgiving to camp out at Best Buy for their kid's electronic wishes, and way out of hand when people literally died in Wal-Mart stampedes of desperate shoppers too eager to save a few hundred dollars on a television. But before it's gone, I wanted to write a little lament for the excitement, fun and togetherness that such a day had brought to those who were able to handle it well, and now sit at their computers alone to click away their Christmas lists.
Maybe with all that time we save driving from store to store we can spend it together in even more meaningful ways! Like board games or playing football or a family folk jam. Or maybe we can even catch a surf! Here's to a repeat of 2013 and the Thanksgiving Swell that I still miss...just a little bit more than Black Friday.