It’s That Time Again

Halloween is over. Yes, the calendar called it Monday night (or Tuesday morning, if you prefer).

And that means it’s time to turn our attention to the next major shopping eventholiday. No, not Thanksgiving. Many retailers have announced they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving again this year–and huzzah for that small bit of sanity. No, I’m talking about [insert ominous chord here] Black Friday.

More intriguing than the Turkey Day closings are the announced opening times for Black Friday. So far, per blackfriday.com, very few national retailers are planning to open in the middle of the night. The most common opening time so far looks to be 6:00; Big Lots, Home Depot, and Jo-Ann are among those who’ve picked that time. Nearly as many stores are going with “regular hours”: Walgreens, Marshalls, and Half Price Books, for example. Only one major retailer–JCPenney–has announced an earlier opening, and that’s 5:00.

Granted, there are still plenty of announcements to be made (or non-announcements to be leaked). But so far, at least, it’s looking like significant numbers of retail employees will get to spend Turkey Thursday with their families, and still get a good night’s sleep before reporting for work Friday.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, according to RetailMeNot, more than half the U.S. population is looking forward to observing Black Friday in the traditional in-store fashion. That said, however, the self-evidently biased survey doesn’t say anything about whether the public is clamoring for middle-of-the-night openings. That doesn’t have to be part of the equation, right?

I say not. I’ve got no problem with deeply discounted loss leaders to drag spenders into stores. No issues with people paying more than they can afford when they miss out on the doorbusters–after all, they can always return the goods the next day for a refund; retailers expect that and budget for it. And I’m already on record as being willing to allow monthlong sales.

But the quid pro quo here has to be an end to making employees arrive at work at dark o’clock and forcing them to wade through crowds of would-be shoppers who’ve been lined up since even darker o’clock.

If a few weirdos want to line up at midnight, let ’em. But don’t open the doors until your regular Friday opening time. Let everyone else sleep in. Remember: a happy, well-rested customer is one who doesn’t block the registers while they fumble around writing a check, screaming at a clerk because they couldn’t find the gizmo they wanted, or* corralling the store manager to complain about “that kind” being allowed to shop in the same store as “decent people”**.

* Or, goddess and gods help us all, “and”, not “or”.

** Based on current headlines, I figure it’s inevitable we’ll get at least one mass shooting at a store predominantly patronized by non-whites and/or non-Christians.

Let’s not aid and abet. Sleeping later won’t change anyone’s mind about their fellow Americans, but it might just help them suppress the impulse to “do something about them“.

It’s Back

Yep, 2021 strikes again.

Black Friday was a non-event last year. Oh, sure, it happened. But the lines of people camping outside stores, the crushing rush inside when the doors opened, and the screaming fights over deeply discounted items were rare in comparison to the past*.

* It’s possible that being on the West Coast gives me a biased perception. Anyone in a state that didn’t have mask mandates, social distancing, and/or stay-at-home orders want to chime in with local data on last year’s Spend-a-Thon?

This year, though, it’s shaping up to be a doozy.

Not only is Black November gaining force–several major retailers have been pushing variations on the “Early Black Friday” theme since about 12:01 AM on 11/1–but those same stores are ramping up the publicity for their sales on the actual Black Friday.

Because, of course, people are sick and tired of shopping from home–even in the Southwest and Florida and all those other areas where they never started shopping from home–so they have to show up in the malls at Oh Dark Hundred Hours.

Feh.

On the bright side, the stupidity of starting the Black Friday sales on Thursday–better known as Thanksgiving–seems to have gotten lost. And good riddance.

What’s going to be really interesting is seeing what happens with Cyber Monday. Remember that? In case you’ve mercifully forgotten, the premise of Cyber Monday has been that people save their online shopping for the Monday after Thanksgiving when they’re back in the office and can use their employer’s bandwidth.

Man, that sounds quaint, doesn’t it? “Back in the office”? It is to laugh.

It’s only a little more than a week to Thanksgiving and, while your experience may differ, I haven’t gotten a single ad for an upcoming Cyber-whatever event.

Could Cyber Monday turn into a regional event? Only advertised in places where the concept of “working from home” hasn’t caught on?

Probably not. It’s cheaper for national advertisers not to filter their mailings, after all. Our best hope is that PR departments decide the optics of telling people to go to work are just too ugly this year.

Still Wrong

Now it’s personal.

I haven’t said anything about Black Friday and the rest of the post-Thanksgiving (and pre-Thanksgiving) shopping nonsense since, what, 2016? (Nope, just checked. It was 2015.)

Nothing’s changed for the better. And in one giant step in the wrong direction, I’m participating in the madness. Not, I hasten to say, as a shopper, but rather as a victimseller.

Let me emphasize that this is not an invitation to play guessing games about my current employer. As I said when I started the job, I want to keep a separation between my personal and paid opinions. That’s still true.

That said, yes, I am required to work tomorrow. From late afternoon into the wee hours when any rational person and most irrational ones would be in bed*. And then I’ll need to be back at work on Friday at roughly the usual time.

* Not necessarily asleep, mind you, but in bed. Those late night reading marathons are an essential part of my mental health regime, and I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who finds that to be the case.

Fortunately–something to be thankful for–I don’t have to work today. Maqgie, regrettably, is working, but at least it’s telecommuting. So she, the fuzzies, and I are celebrating Turkey Day a bit early. (And yes, I do have deep sympathy for my cow-orkers who are working today. They will, one and all, be working tomorrow as well.)

The bird is in the oven. We’re going to try doing the mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot when the appointed hour arrives, and the other essential sides are prepped and ready.

It won’t be the peaceful celebration of sloth and indolence we normally engage in, but traditions do need to change to stay relevant.

And, let’s face it, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all of their ilk are among the traditions that badly need to have some work done. Maybe not a full facelift, but a nip here and a tuck there would work wonders.

Step One, unquestionably, is to get Black Friday the hell out of Thursday. It’s even in the name! “Black Friday“. Not “Black Thursday Night”.

You want to start the sale at midnight? Fine. Keep the store open for twenty-four hours? Abi gezunt. At least let your employees spend the day that everyone else has off with their families. Happy, rested employees are far better suited to face Friday’s onslaught and sell more merchandise.

Remember, if everyone does it, nobody’s market share is affected.

Wrong Way

Hi! Happy December! Welcome to the quiet period between the Thanksgiving-time sales and the–wait… What? Ack! Get away, get away! (At this point, you should picture me flailing my arms wildly, batting at the swarming objects around my head. What objects? Allow me to explain.)

Two years ago, I took note of the impending disappearance of “Black Friday” and its imminent replacement by “Black November,” in which the post-Thanksgiving sales would stretch earlier and earlier until the took over the entire month of November stretching the event so thin that it disappeared into the background noise.

I’m pleased to say that events appear to be moving in accordance with my prediction. Several retailers began their Black Friday sales at least a week before Thanksgiving–I’ve got an e-mail here somewhere from Best Buy promoting a Black Friday deal on Friday the 20th, for example. At this rate, Black November will be a reality by 2020, and we can finally eat our turkey in peace.

Unfortunately, there’s another trend I completely missed, and it’s not nearly so positive. I speak of “Cyber Monday Inflation”.

For those of you fortunate enough to have missed it, “Cyber Monday” is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Supposedly it’s the day that everyone does their online shopping because they’re back at work after the four day weekend and can use the high-speed network connection in the office instead of their slow dial-up connection at home.

Yeah, not so much the case these days. Digital divide notwithstanding, the odds are good that if you have an Internet connection at home, it’s at least as fast as your share of the office connection. Hell, if you’ve got a 4G cell signal, your phone is likely to pull up Target.com faster than your office computer–if you can get through at all. Target’s system was so overwhelmed this year they had to restrict access. In other words, they had to turn customers away! This is not the kind of shopping experience that promotes brand loyalty, y’know?

Bottom line, Cyber Monday is a legacy of an earlier, darker era. In an ideal world, it would go away.

This isn’t an ideal world, as a quick scan of my inbox shows. Calendars.com sent me a new “Cyber Monday” promotion. Uh, guys, today is Tuesday. Dell, God help us, has declared this “Cyber Week for business”. More than thirty different companies have sent me ads with the word “Cyber” in the subject today.

Knock it off!

Not only have we granted you the entire month of November for your pre-Christmas sales, but we’ve even grudgingly admitted that with Thanksgiving over, it’s acceptable to begin the Christmas advertisements. Cyber Monday is bad enough, but the Cyber Monday Inflation is simply unacceptable double-dipping.

Look, let me put it in simple terms. Nobody can run in high gear all the time. Give us a little down time to catch our breath and we’ll come back refreshed and ready to spend again. I’ll even calendar it for you:
– November 1-30: Black November. Hit us with your doorbusters.
– December 1-7: Quiet Time. Any business that advertises a sale during this period will be required to collect sales tax at 150% of list price.
– December 8-22: Christmas Sales. Go for it, repetitive songs and all.
– December 23-24: Last Minute Sales. Give us those specials deals along with free or discounted emergency shipping.
– December 25: Do whatever you want. I’m not going to turn on the TV, check my e-mail, or open the newspaper.
– December 26: Post-Christmas Sales. Deep discounts on whatever you couldn’t unload earlier.
– December 27-October 31: Regular advertising. Holiday-themed sales allowed within one week of the actual date of a holiday.

Stick to that schedule, and I promise to stop complaining. Deal?