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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Indeed

Remember when "Black Friday" was a term of art? We do. We remember grown-ups talking about how the Friday after Thanksgiving was the busiest shopping day of the year. And we remember someone--probably our father--explaining the term "Black Friday": the day that merchants could count on getting into "the black" (i.e., out of "the red" or debt) for the year. Stores would offer bargains, and people would make it a point to head out early. ("We're going to leave the house by 8:30 to make sure we're at the mall when it opens at 9:00!") We remember a comparatively simple time.

Now, people line up 7,000 strong at Macy's flagship store. Now, store employees literally take their lives in their hands when they open the doors to the waiting mobs. Now, the family meal has become for many simply a chance to carbo-load in anticipation of an all-nighter camped out in front of Best Buy, lest one miss out on the chance--the chance--to buy a 52" digital television for the unheard-of price of $699.00.

Do people realize they are lining up for the privilege of giving someone else money?

We realize we leave ourselves open to charges of hypocrisy with this post. After all, we type this column on a netbook (purchased earlier this year for about $250). We listen to music on an iPod ($180). We own a high-definition television, and we drive a fairly new car (although the fact that it's a Prius at least allows us to maintain that we're doing right by the environment). But we did not (and, God-willing, never will) shop on Black Friday.

"Black" describes not just the merchants' balance sheets; it also describes the feelings the day inspires.

(Image from EdinburghGuide.com)

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