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Friday, November 25, 2011

Black and Blue

Yesterday morning, I ran to the store to buy milk and cat food (we were out of cereal).  On my way home, I passed Best Buy.  In front of the store were some temporary barricades, and behind the barricades were. . . tents.  A new front in the "Occupy" movement, perhaps?  Sadly, no.  Just people lining up early for the big deals on Black Friday.

When I was a child, I remember asking someone--I think it was DOS--in all sincerity whether stores were open the day after Thanksgiving.  I guess I figured, since I had no school, maybe everything was closed.  Anyway, DOS informed me that, not only were stores open, but the day after Thanksgiving was probably the biggest shopping day of the year.  I don't recall whether he used the term "Black Friday" or not; the phrase wasn't so commonly circulated back then.  At some point, I learned that the day earned its nickname from the fact that this was the day on which stores got "into the black" (and "out of the red") for the year.

I'm honestly not sure when "Black Friday" became a common meme, a regular fixture on the national calendar.  I realized this year, though, that many people discussed Black Friday as if it were an actual, official holiday.  Like, "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?  Where are you going for Black Friday?"  If as many people celebrated Arbor Day, we'd probably go a long way toward solving the world's environmental crisis.

I tell myself those people camped out in front of Best Buy must be enjoying themselves because otherwise there is truly no rational explanation for their behavior.  I saw in the paper that one of the mega deals being offered was a $500 HDTV for $200.  A hefty savings, sure.  But assume these people got to the "campsite" at, say, 9:00 AM (a highly conservative estimate) and would be on line 'til the doors opened at, say, 10:00 PM (again, a conservative estimate); that means people were "earning" a bit less than $25 an hour for their "labor" (the $300 savings divided by 13 hours).  $25 an hour is not a bad wage, but remember, the estimates of the time spent on line are conservative: Most people probably earned a much lower "hourly wage."  And even those at the higher end of the "payscale" are simply working for the privilege of handing over $200 to a major retailer.

OK, for some families, the opportunity to miss the drama around the Thanksgiving dinner table is a reward in and of itself--but you don't need to patronize Best Buy to receive it!

Maybe some of the nation's "Occupiers" should move their own tents in front of Best Buy and Macy's and Wal-Mart and have a discussion with their fellow campers.

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