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"It’s going to end up like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July or Labor Day, where it’s all about the sales"
November 9, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

“I feel terrible,” [Best Buy chief executive Brian] Dunn told attendees at a conference in San Francisco. “It will change some Thanksgiving plans for our employees. It certainly changes mine...We were going to be open at much more civilized hour, like 3 or 4 [AM].”
Feeling pressure from a weak economy and escalating competition from rival retailers, stores like Best Buy are somewhat reluctantly planning to open stores at midnight on Thanksgiving evening. Traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday has become Black Midnight.

Best Buy, Target, Macy's, and Kohl's have already announced plans to open their stores at midnight after Thanksgiving. Last year Toys 'R' Us opened some stores at 10PM Thanksgiving Day night, while Disney Stores, Sears, Old Navy and The Gap will be open with limited hours on Thanksgiving Day itself.

The International Council on Shopping Centers estimates a "moderately healthy performance" during the holiday season, with sales rising 3% over last year to $250 billion. ShopperTrak estimates that 212 million people are expected to go shopping, spending $39 billion, an average of $365.34 per person not counting online purchases on Black Friday alone.

“Within the last decade, we’ve seen Black Friday morph from a leisurely midmorning venture around a handful of stores to a competitive free-for-all among retailers eager to nab those first holiday shoppers. Last year, it got even earlier,” says Ellen Davis, a National Retail Federation vice president. Nearly one of every four Black Friday shoppers was out at the stores by 4 a.m. last year, according to a survey by the retail group.
posted by 2bucksplus (191 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The whole thing is disgusting and stupid and I want no part of it.
posted by empath at 10:44 AM on November 9, 2011 [120 favorites]


The Christmas shopping season already begins the day after Halloween.

Once they break that barrier, all bets are off.
posted by Trurl at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011


Must consummmmme. Baaaaah. *chews grass*
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


As if I needed another reason to not show up to Black Friday sales.

(If you feel terrible, why not at least offer some fat bonus pay to your worker drones? Compared to the sales volume, a few multiples of hourly wage for the blue-shirted minions can't possibly amount to much.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [18 favorites]


I feel terrible...It will change some Thanksgiving plans for our employees.

I bet he'll cry all the way to the bank.
posted by jcreigh at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


BTW: The (amazeballs) quote in the title comes from Dev Shapiro in this article.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why even give them the day off? Assholes.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


My mom works at the Gap, and has to be there at 9pm on Thanksgiving Day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't some stores have an advantage by opening later in the day, to pick up sales from those people who were too lazy to turn up in the wee hours?
posted by rh at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


Race to the bottom.
posted by interstitial at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


daft
posted by zeoslap at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2011


That of course means that next year they'll plan to open at 10PM on Thanksgiving for their big PRE BLACK FRIDAY SALE. But then they'll end up bumping it up to Noon for the THANKSGIVING LUNCH SALE.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:51 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh Jesus my contrarian selfconscious posturing makes me want so hard to buck against the trends already apparent in this thread and mention that a few years ago thanks to my sister I somehow found myself at Mall of America on Black Friday and it seriously wasn't even bad and whatever but then on the other hand FUCK THIS ORGY OF SELFISH CONSUMERISM
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Damn commies and their war on Thanksgiving.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:52 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never shop Black Friday anymore, but if I was, it would actually be less of a pain to stay up and go at midnight than to go at 3am. For what that's worth.

I feel bad for the retail workers, but really, that time of year sucks regardless of your hours. Even if you don't have to work till 9am Friday, you don't have time to travel anywhere Thursday. Nature of the beast.
posted by emjaybee at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who the hell is doing this shopping? Is the point that Friday is the only major work holiday before Christmas? I just don't see how the stores can do any business at midnight -- who the hell wants to shop then?
posted by grobstein at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Within the last decade, we’ve seen Black Friday morph from a leisurely midmorning venture around a handful of stores to a competitive free-for-all among retailers eager to nab those first holiday shoppers.

This has been my impression too. Black Friday used to be a joke among retail managers (the day our books for the year go into the black, ho ho ho), not something the public knew or cared about. And now it's this big horrific thing.

I might be making it up in hindsight but I feel like I can actually remember it happening, the local news stories on "the biggest shopping day of the year!" building on and reinforcing themselves until nobody really knows why they do it anymore, only that they do. Like the most photographed barn in America.
posted by penduluum at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wouldn't some stores have an advantage by opening later in the day, to pick up sales from those people who were too lazy to turn up in the wee hours?

Yep, in my family nobody gets up to go to black friday. My stepfather and I stay out drinking till 4 and my mom follows us from bar to bar to make sure we don't get into trouble. They should open around 2pm, for the people too hungover to show up early.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Black Friday is usually only about the third biggest shopping day of the year -- too many people are sleeping off their food binges and avoiding the HELLISH BLACK FRIDAY CROWDS. The two Saturdays before Christmas are almost always bigger, because the procrastinators are out in full force.
posted by Etrigan at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


God, these people are all insane. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go celebrate the fact that I managed to score tickets to a concert within two minutes of the pre-sale which I had to bother people to get access to.
posted by griphus at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


HEY AMERICA NEVER MIND THE WHOLE DAMN ECONOMY DROPPING OFF A CLIFF OPEN YOUR PIEHOLE WIDER YOU FACELESS CONSUMER TUBES BUY A FUCKING NEW TV!

DEBT = FREEDOM!!1!
posted by gompa at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


When Black Friday comes, I'll stand down by the door and catch the gray men when they dive from the fourteenth floor.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2011 [16 favorites]


It used to be fun to mosey out and see the sales on the lazy Friday after Thanksgiving.

Now I'd rather stab myself in the eyeballs than have anything at all to do with shopping that weekend.

I have a bunch of friends who go every year at opening and then feel awful all day from lack of sleep. I honestly can't imagine anything less fun.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many kids are going to get trampled to death for minimum wage this year.
posted by mhoye at 10:57 AM on November 9, 2011


...my sister I somehow found myself at Mall of America on Black Friday and it seriously wasn't even bad...

Speaking of, I had this conversation during my vacation in Minnesota:

"So, are you enjoying the Twin Cities?"
"Yeah, my girlfriend and I went to the Mall of America the other day. I bought an official Mall of America t-shirt."
"Oh, so you can take it back to Brooklyn and wear it ironically?"
"Well, yeah."
posted by griphus at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2011 [18 favorites]


I avoid malls and shopping in-general, so, could someone please tell me...Are the "deals" offered on Black Friday that amazingly better than the tide of sales and deals that follow in the weeks running-up to Xmas? That is, amazing enough to convince you to wade through the heaving sea of consumerism?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2011


a few years ago thanks to my sister I somehow found myself at Mall of America on Black Friday and it seriously wasn't even bad and whatever

Some friends of mine go every year.

Not to shop, mind you. Just to people watch.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2011


In Capitalist America, day shops for people.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:00 AM on November 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


We spent last Thanksgiving night at a Wal-mart in SC that just stayed open. The rule was you had to wait until midnight for any of the sales to go into effect, but you could grab whatever you wanted (mostly) before then. Really it just meant that the lines stacked up pretty monstrously between 9 and midnight.

I probably won't do it again, but it was a fun experience. I don't think a single Wal-mart employee really cared, or really showed much concern for losing that night with their family. Everyone seemed in good spirits.
posted by snapped at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2011


Who the hell is doing this shopping?

When you're strapped for cash standing out in line can mean the difference between buying a TV for the family and being able to get that Xbox and a couple of games thrown for nothing in as a loss leader.

It's the sacrifices you make in the lower-middle class to have something, anything at all, nice for Christmas.
posted by Talez at 11:01 AM on November 9, 2011 [36 favorites]


When you're strapped for cash standing out in line can mean the difference between buying a TV for the family and being able to get that Xbox and a couple of games thrown for nothing in as a loss leader.

It's the sacrifices you make in the lower-middle class to have something, anything at all, nice for Christmas.


And when you get that for a very reasonable price, Faux and Friends deride you for living beyond your means and/or being upper middle class whilst claiming lower status.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's the sacrifices you make in the lower-middle class to have something, anything at all, nice for Christmas.

Yes.
posted by cashman at 11:04 AM on November 9, 2011


I wonder if the lines will be greater at midnight versus the "much more civilized hour, like 3 or 4 AM". I assume most shoppers get up early for the 4AM sales, which takes a bit of commitment. But for Midnight most people would just have to stay up an hour or two later than normal and hit the stores and then go to bed. I hope this ends up being fiscally negative for retailers so they don't do it again, but I'm expecting it to have a positive effect on the bottom line to merit screwing over their employees. Hopefully this just another reason to push consumers towards SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:05 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a shift. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, no longer means anything. The focus in on Black Friday, shopping, consuming. The Thursday prior to Black Friday is a day to eat and rest so that you will have energy to make it through Black Friday. Be thankful that stores offer these special hours and low prices.
posted by perhapses at 11:05 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I pity the movie theatre employees, who have to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Speaking of, I had this conversation during my vacation in Minnesota:

By the way, how was Duluth, he derailed?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the current rate of Christmas Shopping Season expansion, how much longer before the season starts at midnight on the 25th?
posted by tommasz at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2011


I avoid malls and shopping in-general, so, could someone please tell me...Are the "deals" offered on Black Friday that amazingly better than the tide of sales and deals that follow in the weeks running-up to Xmas? That is, amazing enough to convince you to wade through the heaving sea of consumerism?

The year the Left 4 Dead 2 came out I got it for $30 instead of $60 on BF, less than 10 days after it came out. I also went to the Banana Republic where everything (everything) was 50% off the lowest price all morning. If you delay your purchases to time with BF and have the nerve you can honestly expect about a 50% discount on regular items. Is that worth it? Maybe not, but it's sort of fun if your friends are also into it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:08 AM on November 9, 2011


I echo everyone above who finds the whole circus gross and silly and doesn't want to participate (besides, there actually aren't any good deals if you know how to shop online).

What I don't understand why this is news?

Tons of stores opened at midnight last year, in fact some Best Buy stores did. Who cares?
posted by trackofalljades at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


BLACK MIDNIGHT NEEDS BRAINS...BRAIIIINNNS!!!

BLACK MIDNIGHT TIME FOR ZOMBIES! BRAINS!
posted by sexyrobot at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2011


Why can't we all just be idly rich?
posted by chavenet at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Buy Nothing Day
posted by finite at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2011 [15 favorites]


On the plus side, TV news will get their annual "people being trampled as the doors open" footage earlier than normal. It's always sad when the early morning news stations have to show LAST year's trampling footage until the new footage happens/arrives.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


You know, I know it's hip to be all anti-consumer and anti-debt, and it's actually quite smart to be that way. On the other hand, these people who have to go to work on Thanksgiving are lucky to have a job. And what's more, the economy isn't going to get any better if people don't actually spend money and buy stuff.
posted by crunchland at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, fuck that.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tommasz, I hate to break it to you, but the 26th is a horribly crowded day to shop, with all the AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES on.
posted by zompus at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2011


Black Friday is the stupidest name for it. That used to be the kind of name people gave to stock market crashes. Congratulations, dumbasses, you've transformed "get your Christmas shopping done early" to "everyone participate in this dark ritual or we're all fucked." I don't even know, man.
posted by furiousthought at 11:10 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, as long as it doesn't affect my yearly holiday tradition of gawking at trampling videos I don't care.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I go every year, as a nice outing with mom and SIL. I rarely buy anything, since if I'm not going the Etsy/craft fair route I'd rather shop in my jammies and have Amazon send it to me. I just don't see the deals as being that great for the things I'm shopping for.

The crowds (up in semi-rural PA) are comparable to a slow-ish Saturday in a metro DC area mall. I was actually interviewed by the local news once as one of those "crazy Black Friday" shoppers, and I expressed genuine amazement at what they considered crowded.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2011


I think if people really want banks and corporations to notice their plight, they should let the holidays pass by without spending any money.

Occupy Christmas.
posted by chronkite at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2011 [42 favorites]


What is the reason for these super early sales? People come out for the sales DESPITE the stupid time of morning or whatever, so why not just have it at a normal time?
posted by orme at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2011


Because then your competitor opens 2 hours before you.
posted by penduluum at 11:12 AM on November 9, 2011


WAKE UP SHEEPLE, the door busting sales start at 3AM!
posted by wcfields at 11:12 AM on November 9, 2011


Buy Nothing Day

Now in conjuction with Buy Nothing Christmas, both brought to you by Adbusters.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Yeah, my girlfriend and I went to the Mall of America the other day. I bought an official Mall of America t-shirt."
"Oh, so you can take it back to Brooklyn and wear it ironically?"
"Well, yeah."


Don't worry, we wear them ironically in MN too.
posted by Think_Long at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's hoping some competitor gets a jump on them by starting their sale a few days before at a normal time.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


sorry, BNC has been around forever, and isn't associated with Adbusters. /correction
posted by mrgrimm at 11:14 AM on November 9, 2011


People come out for the sales DESPITE the stupid time of morning or whatever, so why not just have it at a normal time?

...

Wouldn't some stores have an advantage by opening later in the day, to pick up sales from those people who were too lazy to turn up in the wee hours?

I don't think you guys get it. THEY ARE ALSO OPEN AT NORMAL HOURS.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't some stores have an advantage by opening later in the day, to pick up sales from those people who were too lazy to turn up in the wee hours?

No, because of the psychologically proven herd mentality of these sales and because it's a commercialist cold war. The stores are all banking on the fear that whichever store shoppers get to first will be the store that most people will spend the most of their money at. In other words, if Best Buy doesn't open until 2, then they'll lose all the money spent by customers who got into Wal-Mart at 1 and called it quits after then.

That's what "doorbusters" are--the whole is to get people inside so they'll see everything else and go "well I'm saving $300 on this TV, might as well buy $200 of this other crap." And so from the perspective of all the other stores, it's watching the other side steal potential sales.

And so there you have it. No store will avoid it now. Because if Best Buy's open at midnight and Macy's doesn't open until 8:00 AM, that means for eight hours Macy's won't be selling stuff to thousands of potential shoppers who are at the Best Buy on the most profitable day of the year. They have to build nukes too.

There's no unilateral disarmament though. Why would there be? People are stupid and sheepish enough to keep going every year for that $100 off a TV and now that they KNOW you'll come to the store on Thanksgiving, why close it? Why would they all agree to NOT sell you stuff when you're willing to buy it?

By next year they're just going to offer to serve dinner at the store. I'm not even kidding; I'm amazed it hasn't happened yet.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:16 AM on November 9, 2011 [12 favorites]


Really... who the fuck cares?
posted by 2N2222 at 11:16 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


And so there you have it. No store will avoid it now. Because if Best Buy's open at midnight and Macy's doesn't open until 8:00 AM, that means for eight hours Macy's won't be selling stuff to thousands of potential shoppers who are at the Best Buy on the most profitable day of the year. They have to build nukes too.

Yeah, that's it. (For now) Americans want somewhere to waste their money at 3am on the day after Thanksgiving. If you're not open, someone else will be.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:17 AM on November 9, 2011


And what's more, the economy isn't going to get any better if people don't actually spend money and buy stuff recognize that their primary role in fixing the economy isn't as consumers but as citizens of a democracy.
posted by gompa at 11:18 AM on November 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


> By next year they're just going to offer to serve dinner at the store. I'm not even kidding; I'm amazed it hasn't happened yet.

That should involve employees standing at the entrance in a cage handing out turkey legs to shoppers as they rush in.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:18 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


“I feel terrible,” [Best Buy chief executive Brian] Dunn told attendees at a conference in San Francisco. “But, fuck you. I've got mine."
posted by tyllwin at 11:18 AM on November 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


What a great way to say happy birthday to Jesus! I can't wait.
posted by marxchivist at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really... who the fuck cares?

Enough people for a yearly body count.
posted by griphus at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2011


Really... who the fuck cares?

Who cares if you have to miss Thanksgiving so you don't lose your job? Seriously?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2011 [19 favorites]


That should involve employees standing at the entrance in a cage handing out turkey legs to shoppers as they rush in.

Protein based slurry dispursed through human-sized hamster feeders.
posted by Think_Long at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Really... who the fuck cares?

212,000,000 people will be out shopping that day. 25% of them (more than 50,000,000 people) will be out shopping before 4AM that morning. These numbers don't even count the poor guys working that morning. That's... almost like a mass migration or something. It's culturally significant.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Tommasz, I hate to break it to you, but the 26th is a horribly crowded day to shop, with all the AFTER CHRISTMAS SALES on.

In Canada, the Boxing Day (Dec 26) sales are a big thing. But lately they have morphed into Boxing Week sales. Now that things are online, they are starting even before Christmas Day.

The light at the end of the tunnel (I hope) is that it becomes so diluted that stores can just return to sales as usual. Then people don't have to feel bad sleeping in on their one day off because they could have saved a few hundred on a TV.
posted by Gary at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2011


What is the reason for these super early sales? People come out for the sales DESPITE the stupid time of morning or whatever, so why not just have it at a normal time?

Having a super early sale gets your shop on the news. This is free advertising to eyeballs that aren't in the kitchen or looking down at an iPad during the commercials.

a few years ago thanks to my sister I somehow found myself at Mall of America on Black Friday and it seriously wasn't even bad and whatever

I worked at least one BF in a large bookstore in a large American mall over a decade ago when 'Black Friday' was a thing, but I think 7am opening would have been a big deal. It wasn't terribly bad. Like a Saturday with a convention at the hotel next door and a big concert on the same night. Busy enough to fly by and make you say 'whew!' at the end.
posted by K.P. at 11:22 AM on November 9, 2011


citizens of a democracy. --- Because voting stimulates the economy more than buying and selling goods and services?
posted by crunchland at 11:22 AM on November 9, 2011


Yeah, not everybody is lucky enough to know the ins and outs of shopping online, having uninterrupted time and online access, finding codes, buying in bulk and finding the holes in capitalism. But people still have families and friends who they would like to get gifts for. I don't get why I'm supposed to look down at these people. The folks that are just buying to buy, sure, but I am guessing that most people are there to get gifts for others or things they need and want that they are able to afford on this day.
posted by cashman at 11:22 AM on November 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


THEY ARE ALSO OPEN AT NORMAL HOURS

But everything good is already sold! I wander in at 2pm clutching my coffee only to find trash strewn isles and a harried staff. What are we animals?

Open the sale at a civilized time. Instead of having people dash through the doors give out numbered bracelets,have people to enter 100 at a time and allow people to enjoy a bloody Mary and eggs benedict at the newly installed outdoor cafe while they wait.

Retailers have no imagination, you got all these people outside and you aren't even selling them anything.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:26 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr. Ant and I own a small specialty retail store. Every year for Black Friday, we set up a giant TV and a bunch of chairs and we watch motorcycle movies with our friends and customers. We grill 'dogs and burgers, make popcorn and have a cooler full of soft drinks. People straggle in throughout the day, recovering from the madness beyond our doors.

It's our way of not participating in The System™ while, in a sense, being the system.
posted by workerant at 11:26 AM on November 9, 2011 [30 favorites]


Are the "deals" offered on Black Friday that amazingly better than the tide of sales and deals that follow in the weeks running-up to Xmas? That is, amazing enough to convince you to wade through the heaving sea of consumerism?

It's my understanding that many of the items on sale are older versions of stuff the store carries, often bundled in such a way that you can't find out what a good price for it would be.

If you really want deals, shop the clearance sales (especially toys) that Target has in January and August. I got a re-issue Optimus Prime for $5 once, and plenty of gifts for the kids for next year at prices 75% off.
posted by drezdn at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2011


I would rather dive into a swimming pool full of double-edged razor blades than set foot in a mall or big-box store in the next two months.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of, I had this conversation during my vacation in Minnesota:

"So, are you enjoying the Twin Cities?"
"Yeah, my girlfriend and I went to the Mall of America the other day. I bought an official Mall of America t-shirt."
"Oh, so you can take it back to Brooklyn and wear it ironically?"
"Well, yeah."


Heh, first thing I bought in the Mall of America too. On that same trip I also had a funny encounter at the Brooks Brothers store:

me: Can I see the Shetland sweaters?

sales clerk who looks like the grandpa from Gilmore Girls only twice as old: Ah yes, hm, let's see.

young clerk at the counter about fifteen feet away, pointing: The Shetlands are over there.

grandpa: THE WHAT?

young guy: The Shetlands!

grandpa, to me: Did you hear what he said?

me: He said the Shetlands are over there.

grandpa: I thought he said chitlins!



It was like running into Boris Johnson at a Footlocker.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Who the hell is doing this shopping?

A couple years ago, when supplies of Nintendo Wii were severely constrained, I conspired with my sweetie to get one at the local megastore. So after a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat and an early bedtime, I got in queue some time before 3 AM of Black Friday - when they to officially be on sale -- and politely waited along with everybody else. When the time drew near, a clerk went down the line counting off people, and I was the 30th of 30. The clerk announced loudly that I was the end of the line and the line behind me dissolved; some sauntering off in disappointment, some running like hell, I assume to try another store.

So we waited mostly politely in line, us people at the back picking magazines off racks to read, or continually chastising their kids (I have no idea why they brought their kids), or chatting with others in line. Some had jackets over their sleeping clothes. Some were in regular street clothes. Maybe they sleep in their Confederate flag teeshirts.

There was a woman behind me. She didn't look like she wanted to talk. People would occasionally wander up and ask if it was the line for Wii consoles, and those of us at the back would say they'd all been spoken for, and I'd remark, probably a little too deliberately loudly, that I was the last in line. They'd look disappointed and wander off. The woman behind me would only budge as the line inched along.

Eventually, I got up to the desk where the clerks were handing out their consoles, and I was handed mine.

The woman behind me asked for hers.
"We're all out," a clerk said.
"You have one back there," she said.
"I'm sorry, but no, he was the last one in line. We don't have any more."
She wouldn't look at me. I hung around in front of the rack of games to see what there was.
"You always have one under the cabinet. I want to see your manager," she said.
Both clerks looked at the visibly empty cabinet.
"We don't have any more. Really."
The woman wouldn't budge. One of the clerks trotted off. I decided it wasn't a good time to keep hanging around.
"You always hide one for yourself. I know you do," she said.
I walked to the checkout. A tall, sturdy plainclothed gentleman strode purposefully past me towards the games section.

To answer your question: Crazy people are doing this shopping. Also some other kinds.
posted by ardgedee at 11:27 AM on November 9, 2011 [16 favorites]


I've tried and tried to get the adults on my dad's side of the family to agree that we don't need any more crap, and let's just buy Christmas presents for the kids. It's what my in-laws do, and everyone's happy. I've been met with total disbelief and outright disgust. I suggested handmade gifts instead (not that I'm crafty) with the same result.

My stepmother and stepsister do the Black Friday thing - it's an obsession. I can see that if you're going to buy presents anyway, you might as well do it cheaply, but good god I really don't need any more stuff. I have a ton of trouble coming up with a list that isn't just "iTunes cards." So last year I suggested that instead of getting me something, they give the equivalent amount to charity. That sent them into apoplexy.
posted by desjardins at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why don't they just have their big sales on a different day?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2011


citizens of a democracy. --- Because voting stimulates the economy more than buying and selling goods and services?

Because the economy's built on fundamentally unsustainable foundations, namely a growth-at-all-costs consumer model predicated on abundant cheap energy whose use is exhausting the biosphere's ability to provide for the basic needs of seven billion people.

If your gas tank's coming up on empty and the engine's about to blow a couple of valves, stomping repeatedly on the gas pedal is not "stimulating" the vehicle, it's accelerating its destruction.
posted by gompa at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2011 [25 favorites]


Yeah, like I really needed yet another reason not to spend money at Best Buy.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2011


Retailers have no imagination, you got all these people outside and you aren't even selling them anything.

I've thought about this, actually. Considering the sheer amount of people involved, I think they don't want some minimum-wage kid walking around with large sums of cash on them, hawking to cold, tired people with the insane glint in their eye that only a Black Friday shopper has.
posted by griphus at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2011


The Christmas shopping season already begins the day after Halloween.

Once they break that barrier, all bets are off.


They broke that barrier in my town this very year. Times are hard, man.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Yeah, like I really needed yet another reason not to spend money at Best Buy.

Best Buy can be a convenient choice if you want an item that's price fixed like an iPad or something and you've already done your homework. I bought a Mac Mini there once in about the same time it would take to duck into a convenience store to get a soda. Otherwise, just going fishing for deals there is at the buyer's peril.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2011


I am so fucking glad I quit my stopgap job at Target before this started.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:35 AM on November 9, 2011


> They broke that barrier in my town this very year. Times are hard, man.

Costco started putting Xmas decorations and sweets in their store in late August here.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because the economy's built on fundamentally unsustainable foundations, namely a growth-at-all-costs consumer model predicated on abundant cheap energy whose use is exhausting the biosphere's ability to provide for the basic needs of seven billion people. --- And so you think voting and democracy will save us from this?
posted by crunchland at 11:40 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Black Friday is the stupidest name for it. That used to be the kind of name people gave to stock market crashes.

It reminds me of a bad Sci-Fi novel in which the government's seemingly-benign-but-secretly-tyrannical police force is named the O-Pressors, which no one notices and is justified in the text as being named after their standard-issue Omni-Pressure Beam weapons.
posted by straight at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I did BF once, quite a few years ago, when I was working part time and had decided to sew a majority of our presents. I got up and went to the chain fabric store and made my selections. And then stood in line at the cutting counter behind a pack of ladies from a nearby Amish community who had been bussed in to buy, what I was told later by one of the store employees, their entire year's worth of quilting fabric in one fell swoop. I decided then that I just didn't have the dedication to do it, and instead started the habit of shopping a little bit all year long. It's better for my budget, less stressful, and more personalized because I can take my time. I'm hoping this year to be done before BF even hits. (Caveat - we have no small children who want the equivalent of a Wii or a Cabbage Patch Doll, and a relatively small family.)
posted by librarianamy at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


And in other news, Representatives from several major firms have annouced plans to slow the rotation of the Earth in order to extend the holiday season.
posted by The Whelk at 11:45 AM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


And so you think voting and democracy will save us from this?

If I can rephrase slightly to frame the question as "Do I think engaging directly in changing the system by democratic means - including but not limited to voting - has a better shot at building a sustainable economy than buying more of the stuff produced and sold out of the cavernous warehouses at the end of its least sustainable supply chains?" . . . then yes. Yes, I do.
posted by gompa at 11:45 AM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


The 99% can be bought with sweet TV deals.
posted by amazingstill at 11:47 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


librarianamy, I do the same thing. I have a box behind my bedroom door, and when I see somethign I like for someone I buy it and put itthere. when Christmas/someone's birthday arrives, I'm ready!

Also, my mom and sister are visiting for the holidays, and we are almost certainly doing black friday. It's a must for any responsible tourist in the US! They'll be bewildered, bewaffled by the masses of people and the amount of money changing hands, and then we'll go have a midnight breakfast at IHOP and they will have crazy stories to tell their friends about this country!
posted by Tarumba at 11:49 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


NEEDS MOAR TRYPTOPHANzzzzzzzzz.....
posted by newdaddy at 11:53 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


ardgedee: The woman wouldn't budge. One of the clerks trotted off. I decided it wasn't a good time to keep hanging around.
"You always hide one for yourself. I know you do," she said.
I walked to the checkout. A tall, sturdy plainclothed gentleman strode purposefully past me towards the games section.

To answer your question: Crazy people are doing this shopping. Also some other kinds.


My family and friends have been free of the mania of Must Have Items, but others are not so lucky. When your kid(s) are all clamoring for One Simple Item, it seems like a safe and straightforward thing to do: buy that One Simple Item. But some years, that item is the same item everyone wants. Some times it's a Tickle-Me Elmo, sometimes it's a Wii.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, BFAds collects Black Friday ads as soon as they're available. Really, truly, if you shopped around and weren't tied to a specific brand, you can usually find better deals online any day of the week (or wait a week or two for an online sale).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on November 9, 2011


marxchivist: What a great way to say happy birthday to Jesus! I can't wait.

Biblical scholars know that black Friday was the reason the inn in Jerusalem was so crowded. Ancient Israelites traveled far and wide for the doorbuster deals on tunics and papyrus.
posted by dr_dank at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


Trurl - A start at answering might be that a more persuasive argument can be made that the mandate to purchase health insurance will actually solve the collective goods problem inherent in health insurance, whereas mandating X spending on a given day does not solve the much larger economic problem(s).

(You of course may be variously more or less persuaded by the mandated insurance argument.)
posted by Wretch729 at 12:08 PM on November 9, 2011


Skipping Black Friday...going to see "The Muppets" instead.
posted by inturnaround at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a shift. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, no longer means anything.

As a public employee, I get the Wednesday before and the Friday after off, and my wife gets the whole week off. Her family spends the night and we spend Wednesday evening and all Thursday cooking and doing family stuff. Friday, we sleep in. It's most definitely meaningful for us.
posted by Huck500 at 12:29 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have lived and breathed Black Friday. Not as a shopper though, I used to work for one of the sites that released the Black Friday ads early. It was a great experience and it was pretty exciting, long hours though. People get crazy about shopping on Black Friday, they would be people emailing us in the middle of August wanting to know where the ads where and when they would start showing up. The majority of the deals that are on sale in stores (even doorbusters) are on sale online. So you don't have to leave the comfort of your computer. I was able to get all of my Christmas shopping done at Black Friday prices while updating the Black Friday website at work.
posted by lilkeith07 at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


We purchased nothing last year for the holidays..other than some food for a nice family dinner..... everyone survived (both the dinner and lack of gadgets). We were then able to support our kids in more important ways than the accumulation of "things".....
posted by HuronBob at 12:32 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


> And dignify your conspiratorial bullshit about federally mandatory Christmas shopping? This is beyond absurd.

Time was when I might have thought a law requiring thai I fork over X$ to a private insurance company was beyond absurd. But I have been re-educated on that. Nothing is beyond absurd.
posted by jfuller at 12:36 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Consumerism as Religion.


Someone has to be the poor Altar boy.
posted by Cheradine Zakalwe at 12:37 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a nice day to begin a general strike. Suppose they held a sale and nobody came?
posted by cookie-k at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2011


See, there are plenty of other reasons other than our "freedoms" to hate us.
posted by zzazazz at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2011


"Black Friday" is the Friday our town holds its little Xmas/solstice parade, and then the ritual turning on of all the holiday lights strung downtown. We meet as many of our grownup friends as possible then at this one wine bar, and become somewhat loud. For a wine bar.

Shopping? Nah.
posted by everichon at 12:40 PM on November 9, 2011


"Black Friday is the stupidest name for it."

I don't think anyone else said this -- it's called "Black Friday" because it's traditionally the day when retailers came out of the red for the year and went into the black ... everything after Thanksgiving was (or should be, if you were in good economic shape) profit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:45 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So exactly how much drunk driving will there be from people still full of Thanksgiving dinner booze heading out to the shops?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:46 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha, I remember working at Best Buy during Black Friday about eight years ago. It was hilarious. I was assigned to the CD department (with my computer science degree) and we all waited in fear and apprehension as the line of people outside waited for the doors to open.

The doors opened, everyone filed in and walked the main path around the store, grabbing the special sale items as they went. This became the line for the registers. No one left the main isle. Black Friday came and I just stood there not having to do anything.

This was apparently too much for the managers to take so they handed the rest of use floor sales people strips of batteries and told us to walk up and down the line of people waiting for checkout trying to sell them batteries. It was pathetic. I got sent home after an hour because they realized barely anyone was needed.
posted by charred husk at 12:48 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


After Jimmy Damour, I'm only hoping that Wal-Mart employees are stocking up on house-bought aluminum softball bats and BB rifles.
posted by obscurator at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2011


I know in my family, we always have plans to go out Black Friday, but when 3am rolls around, nope.
posted by lstanley at 12:52 PM on November 9, 2011


I was unemployed last year at Christmas, so we spent a little on the kids, and nothing on each other. Looking back, it was no better or worse than the Christmas' when we spent the GDP of a small country.
posted by COD at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2011


This just reinforces my conviction that anyone who goes shopping on the day after Thanksgiving is batshit crazy. The day after Thanksgiving is one of the great do-nothing days of the year. It is for sitting around the house in your PJs eating leftovers.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:54 PM on November 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


will actually solve the collective goods problem

That can be debated.

However, to the best of my knowledge, the legal arguments haven't hinged on "Will the mandate control health insurance costs?" but "Is Congress empowered by the Interstate Commerce Clause to do this?"

If Congress is so empowered, whether or not its mandating $X of Christmas spending would be helpful or not is moot.
posted by Trurl at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2011


> HEY AMERICA NEVER MIND THE WHOLE DAMN ECONOMY DROPPING OFF A CLIFF OPEN YOUR
> PIEHOLE WIDER YOU FACELESS CONSUMER TUBES BUY A FUCKING NEW TV!

You know, a lot of folks who appear to know what they're talking about (or at least have respectable-looking soapboxes) are saying there's no recovery because the consumers aren't consuming, and we somehow need to get them to open their wallets and pieholes wider. So this comment's two-pronged snark seems a bit self-cancelling.


> Because the economy's built on fundamentally unsustainable foundations, namely a growth-
> at-all-costs consumer model predicated on abundant cheap energy whose use is exhausting
> the biosphere's ability to provide for the basic needs of seven billion people.

OTOH I don't see anything that smacks of internal contradiction here. HEY AMERICA NEVER MIND THE WHOLE DAMN ECONOMY DROPPING OFF A CLIFF, that's in fact exactly what we need. Because WTF do we think transitioning to a no-growth model (let alone a negative-growth model) is going to look like? But I think I might argue for that in a less truculent tone.
posted by jfuller at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's called "Black Friday" because it's traditionally the day when retailers came out of the red for the year and went into the black ..

Snopes disagrees.
posted by drezdn at 1:00 PM on November 9, 2011


Friday, Friday, Gotta go shopping on Friday
posted by desjardins at 1:02 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Is Congress empowered by the Interstate Commerce Clause to do this?"

That's a trick question, isn't it?
posted by malocchio at 1:03 PM on November 9, 2011


The Wikipedia article discussing the origin of the Black Friday name is interesting.
posted by drezdn at 1:06 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, a lot of folks who appear to know what they're talking about (or at least have respectable-looking soapboxes) are saying there's no recovery because the consumers aren't consuming, and we somehow need to get them to open their wallets and pieholes wider

I guess there's no chance of our returning to being an economy that does more than service pieholes.
posted by Trurl at 1:06 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are the "deals" offered on Black Friday that amazingly better than the tide of sales and deals that follow in the weeks running-up to Xmas?

At Fred Meyer, on socks. Seriously. If we happen to be up before 7am, we'll head over and see if we can score a few extra pairs. Has happened several times, but we don't make a big deal out of it.
posted by epersonae at 1:07 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Black Friday is the stupidest name for it."

I don't think anyone else said this -- it's called "Black Friday" because it's traditionally the day when retailers came out of the red for the year and went into the black ... everything after Thanksgiving was (or should be, if you were in good economic shape) profit.
posted by Eyebrows McGee


It was originally called Black Friday in the 1960s by police in Philadelphia because it was when massive amounts of people would go to all the stores downtown and pack the stores and create huge traffic jams. It wasn't until the 1980s that the term Black Friday was used as an accounting term.
posted by lilkeith07 at 1:08 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like Black Friday. Haven't missed one in five years. If you plan it right, then the savings are totally worth it (easy equation: amount you saved divided by hours spent waiting; if that is more than the amount you make an hour at your job, then it's worth it). this year, we're hoping to get a couple of TVs (one for my office, one for our bedroom), and maybe a stack of Blu-Ray movies.

But my wife and I do two things that make it worth our time that go beyond mere savings. 1) Don't go in with expectations you're getting everything you want; this way, you're not sad or angry with disappointment; and 2) look at it as an adventure, something fun to do. We plan ours like a heist. We figure out who's going to which store, where in the store they need to go to get the stuff, and then we stop off for breakfast at the nearby Waffle House when we're done.

It doesn't have to be mindless consumerism or rotten cynicism. Learn to enjoy things, you grumpy bastards!
posted by grubi at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]



I meandered into my Black Friday shopping when the sun was up and the banks were open last year. I hit Wal-Mart first and all the good TVs and other stuff I wanted were already gone, so I went to Target. Although they had NO signage over any of their advertised deals, I was able to score a great Camera, HDTV, and a bunch of other crap, and I was done and out the door by 1:00 PM.

So my advice is to go to Target and bring your flyer. Don't go by the signs over the merchandise, just buy it and go.

And yes, the deal are astronomically better, because the idea is to lure you into the store with the cheap-o thing, but then get you to buy other stuff at regular prices.

If you stick to your plan though, you can score and score big.

It's pretty horrible being out with the hoi-paloi, but it's nice to get your shopping done early.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:12 PM on November 9, 2011


Are the "deals" offered on Black Friday that amazingly better than the tide of sales and deals that follow in the weeks running-up to Xmas?

On specific items, yes. If you want a brand-new Wii, this BF may be the best time to do so since 1) Nintendo is on the verge of their next Wii's release and 2) BF sales on hot items are better than the Xmas sales.
posted by grubi at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2011


I can admit to being able to see the pleasure of Black Friday, as illustrated by grubi above. I love shopping on Christmas Eve just to see the panic on peoples' faces.

That being said, I'm definitely more of a Cyber Monday guy. It would be interesting to compare the savings I can receive sitting on my butt in my underwear at home vs. what people save by depriving themselves of sleep, etc.
posted by Fister Roboto at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2011


It's pretty horrible being out with the hoi-paloi,

I like it. Makes the whole thing an adventure, seriously.
posted by grubi at 1:15 PM on November 9, 2011


I love shopping on Christmas Eve just to see the panic on peoples' faces.

When I worked retail (could be doing it again this Christmas), I loved working Christmas Eve. Most people stopped looking for specific items, were happy with whatever they could find, and people were usually in a good mood (plus the day usually ended by six).
posted by drezdn at 1:17 PM on November 9, 2011


My board gaming group has had a tradition of gaming on Black Friday for a few years now. And we're all over the political spectrum, so it's not like we're all "GRAR must boycott evil corporations," it's just that none of us have any interest in venturing out into that madness, regardless of our individual feelings on consumerism in general.

Unfortunately, I have yet to convince my group that if other people are shopping at 4 a.m., we should be gaming at 4 a.m.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:24 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Few comments removed - don't turn this into the type of thread you like to argue in please. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:24 PM on November 9, 2011


easy equation: amount you saved divided by hours spent waiting; if that is more than the amount you make an hour at your job, then it's worth it

Here's an example i found in Staples' upcoming BF sale: BlackBerry PlayBook 7" Tablet - 16GB is selling for $199.99. Normally it's $499.00. If you stand in line for two hours, you'll be saving $150 an hour. And unless you make more than $150/hr, that's some mothafuckin' savings.
posted by grubi at 1:25 PM on November 9, 2011


Unfortunately, I have yet to convince my group that if other people are shopping at 4 a.m., we should be gaming at 4 a.m.

Some people, huh
posted by grubi at 1:26 PM on November 9, 2011


Here's an example i found in Staples' upcoming BF sale: BlackBerry PlayBook 7" Tablet - 16GB is selling for $199.99. Normally it's $499.00. If you stand in line for two hours, you'll be saving $150 an hour. And unless you make more than $150/hr, that's some mothafuckin' savings.

But I don't want to buy that thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:28 PM on November 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


Oh yay I just applied to Target yesterday for a seasonal job. So I guess I know what I'll be doing Thanksgiving night!

Unless they don't hire me. *sob*

/10 months unemployed
posted by book 'em dano at 1:31 PM on November 9, 2011


But I don't want to buy that thing.

So don't. Peruse the sales papers/sites. If there's nothing you want to buy or nothing you want at a price you're willing to pay, then don't. I'm not advocating you do the sale; I'm asking you to understand it makes financial sense for many who do.
posted by grubi at 1:36 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


My family used to take Black Friday seriously. Like, we had walkie-talkies to coordinate who was able to grab what item - so that we didn't unnecessarily double up on things like rewritable CDs or Flash Drives or what not. And a plan that would kick-in if the line at one store was too long and would keep us from getting the deal we wanted.

My father LOVED the rebates offered with Black Friday shopping. My father rarely expressed* excitement about anything at that point in his life, but rebates were something special. He'd start setting up his spreadsheet the night before, so he could track the rebates and make sure "they" didn't cheat him out of anything. He had a whole "system" in place so that there was no chance the rebate forms would be lost when we traveled between the Black Friday sales.

* My father gave up Black Friday shopping one year to stay home with my sick sister, which was a sacrifice for him - but shows that his heart was in the right place.

We don't really do Black Friday shopping anymore, as we don't need 3 cheap scanners or a set of 30 socket wrenches. Our family also is larger with nieces/nephews/grandkids, spouses, and significant others; we don't want to spend one of the few times we're all together waiting in a line for something we don't need. We still look at the fliers on Thanksgiving and get nostalgic about Black Friday, but - thankfully - we know it wouldn't be the same.
posted by TofuGolem at 1:40 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone else seeing a BF stubhub or groupon? Say I want a $199 tablet, someone else wants a WII. We should chip in and hire someone to stand on line at the store and buy them. If we can group up enough requests for items from the same store the costs to us would be negligible,

Someone make it happen. I already did the hard part, now a programmer just needs to type it in and put it on the web.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:41 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Do I think engaging directly in changing the system by democratic means - including but not limited to voting - has a better shot at building a sustainable economy than buying more of the stuff produced and sold out of the cavernous warehouses at the end of its least sustainable supply chains?" --- Well, it's not that I don't agree with you, that we need to build a sustainable system that doesn't rely on gimmicks like a one day super sale with low-priced goods designed to get people into the store at 4am on the day after Thanksgiving... I sort of feel like what you're talking about is a lot like someone who is caught in quicksand up to his elbows worrying about the sharks down in the ocean that will eat him up. And while I realize that the odds are more than likely that once we do pull ourselves out of the quicksand, we'll just resort to the same behavior that got us into the quicksand in the first place, the fact remains that we're still drowning in quicksand.
posted by crunchland at 1:43 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not advocating you do the sale; I'm asking you to understand it makes financial sense for many who do.

Of course I understand that; I'm not of the impression that the millions who flock to retail outlets on the day after Thanksgiving are brainwashed morons who are just following the big red banners with dollar signs on them. I don't think I'm better than they are, or better than you are; for myself, and only for myself, I try to use Black Friday as a time to remind myself that there are very few things that I need, and that by abstaining from what is advertised and spoken of as the biggest shopping day of the year-- even if I end up spending more money on items later on-- I am able to make a statement to myself about my personal priorities and ethics. This is, as I say, descriptive, rather than prescriptive. PBUY.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:43 PM on November 9, 2011


My family used to take Black Friday seriously. Like, we had walkie-talkies to coordinate who was able to grab what item - so that we didn't unnecessarily double up on things like rewritable CDs or Flash Drives or what not. And a plan that would kick-in if the line at one store was too long and would keep us from getting the deal we wanted.

My father LOVED the rebates offered with Black Friday shopping. My father rarely expressed* excitement about anything at that point in his life, but rebates were something special. He'd start setting up his spreadsheet the night before, so he could track the rebates and make sure "they" didn't cheat him out of anything. He had a whole "system" in place so that there was no chance the rebate forms would be lost when we traveled between the Black Friday sales.


That.

Sounds.

AWESOME.
posted by grubi at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2011


We don't really do Black Friday shopping anymore, as we don't need 3 cheap scanners or a set of 30 socket wrenches.

My wife and I have noticed that, over the last few years, our needs/wants for the big ticket items (TVs, computers, etc) have dimmed, since once you've got one, why scout for another? Five years ago, we hit them stores hard. Last year, i hit target, alone, and walked away with two regular-sized bags of stuff.

Still more fun than going to the movies.
posted by grubi at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2011


This is, as I say, descriptive, rather than prescriptive. PBUY.

Fair enough.
posted by grubi at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2011


These days my fam and the inlaws mostly buy gag-gifts or make tiny things for each other, and get toys for the kids, and that's it. I have memories of Christmases when I was a kid when we had so many gifts for everyone that it took two hours to get them all open (we would go around in a circle and open one at a time).

We're not any less happy with this system, honestly. Stuff is stuff, we all already have plenty of it. I don't still have most of the stuff I got from random people over the years, but I do still have a little crocheted ornament my niece made me when she was 8. She's grown and a mom herself, but that little thing goes on my tree every year still.
posted by emjaybee at 1:51 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, America, why don't you just get with the program and celebrate Thanksgiving in early October like Canada? Then you can just re-brand the November thing as Shopping Day, or maybe something more catchy like Mammon Day, or November Blackness, or ...
posted by philip-random at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2011


tofu golem, that sounds like an episode of the Wonder Years.
posted by Tarumba at 1:56 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't been out shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas since the advent of online shopping, because the thing that some of you seem to think makes it all worth it, the gobs of people desperately grasping for cheap crap, sounds less like an adventure and more like being smothered to death by thousands of incontinent rats.

Seriously, I'm having a mini-panic attack just thinking about it.

Because there's something wrong with me, I know.

posted by Huck500 at 1:58 PM on November 9, 2011


I admire people who volunteer in soup kitchens at T'giving and Xmas.
I have no sympathy for those whose shopping habits cause others to work 12 hours on what should be a holiday.
Before the family made other arrangements, I had my Xmas shopping done by July.
Real stuff, no 'christmas crap'.
posted by Cranberry at 2:10 PM on November 9, 2011


I really believe that American's have nothing to talk about with their family anymore except work so people need the matrix of shopping to interact with each other.

It really pains me to shlep the kids across the country to see the relatives and then to have those same relatives disappear for days to go shopping.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:23 PM on November 9, 2011


I really believe that American's have nothing to talk about with their family anymore except work so people need the matrix of shopping to interact with each other.

My family consists of my wife. My children live with their mothers and I rarely see them. My parents live 600 miles away. Who am I failing to talk to? The wife with whom I go to BF sales? The children who I see twice a month? The parents I'm nowhere near?

Stop throwing your issues on my life.
posted by grubi at 2:29 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


bottlebrushtree: I really believe that American's have nothing to talk about with their family anymore except work so people need the matrix of shopping to interact with each other.

You've clearly never been to Thanksgiving dinner with twenty-five east-coast atheist Jews. There's everything to talk about, and I do mean everything. By the time dessert and coffee roll around, though, if we have run low on topics of conversation, we can always fall back on the semi-annual Original Green Liquid NyQuil vs Bullshit Red Cherry NyQuil debate. (I am not making this up.)
posted by tzikeh at 2:39 PM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


212,000,000 people will be out shopping that day. 25% of them (more than 50,000,000 people) will be out shopping before 4AM that morning.

These numbers are just obscene. Can it possibly be that 2/3 of the country is shopping?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:39 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I admire people who volunteer in soup kitchens at T'giving and Xmas. I have no sympathy for those whose shopping habits cause others to work 12 hours on what should be a holiday.

Um, first, volunteering on holidays is like giving blood to Dracula. It's better to spread volunteering throughout the year rather than binge on it like so much Thanksgiving turkey. Notice, I didn't include cash donations, because money can always be spent at a later date (hint hint).

Second, not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving or Christmas. I mean, I guess if I took your viewpoint I should have no sympathy for most people since I'm expected to work on Lunar New Year's...In addition, I think in this economy, having any extra work is good. But be sure to treat those that work that day with courtesy of course.
posted by FJT at 2:40 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no sympathy for those whose shopping habits cause others to work 12 hours on what should be a holiday.

This is a terribly slippery slope however, because at some level anyone who is engaged in modern capitalism helps this entire process.

I'm not saying "oh yeah I'm totally immune to all of this!" personally (I'm not), I'm just saying it's a lot more complicated than someone from a rage comic saying "RARARA I NEED CHEEP TV, open the stores for me!!!!" because I think a lot of people wouldn't, if they got to choose, shop at midnight after Thanksgiving but they feel like idiots if they were buying a tv anyhow and they could get one for half off. And a lot of people in retail may not mind the chance to get away from their family. And a lot of people are happy to have jobs. And a lot of people don't have tvs at all [some want them, some don't]

The thing that's so tricky about Americans as a people is that any group of them represent some huge spread of beliefs and yet people overgeneralize them to the two-dimensional caricatures they love to hate because it's a lot easier to blame people for simple stuff than collectively blame all of us for complicated stuff. I'm working on Thanksgiving and so's cortex, and we have some of the best jobs around. But you know who is "making" us? You are. Or maybe Matt is? Life's all about choices and the equation of "Who mods MeFi on Thanksgiving?" has very few variables, but even at that level, it's a complicated set of variables. Buy Nothing Day is my seasonal holiday, but it's not for everyone.
posted by jessamyn at 2:49 PM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Can it possibly be that 2/3 of the country is shopping?

And all at my local Best Buy.

Fuckers.
posted by grubi at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2011


I haven't bought a TV in ten years. My wife wants a flat panel, has been asking for 4 years for one.

I'm gonna prolly shell out some cash on Black Friday for a flat panel this year.

I feel like a two-sided asshole, one for not buying my wife something she has wanted for years. the other for seriously considering buying something on black friday.

If I was a millionaire I wouldn't give a crap.
posted by roboton666 at 2:56 PM on November 9, 2011


All the people who say that Christmas is under attack because people say "Happy Holidays" should explain to me why employees can't have Thanksgiving Day away from work. I love presents, lights, holly, and having a tree in my house. Creche on the mantel, wrapping paper, I love it. But not to the extent that I would demand that people work on a holiday so that Big-Box-O-Consumerism can post better numbers. I've been tempted by the 196" teevee, or the new laptop at 50% off, but not tempted enough to shop in the middle of the night.

If we had a better healthcare system, so that everybody had access to care, it would create jobs in health care, and stimulate the local economy. If we helped people pay for higher education, it would create jobs and stimulate the local economy, and make us more competitive in the world innovation stakes. But, no, we should buy consumer goods shipped from China, creating jobs with crap pay and lousy working conditions, so that the shareholders of Best Buy can make a fraction more in their dividend, and a bunch of schnooks have to go to work at 10 p.m. on a national holiday.

Bah, humbug.
posted by theora55 at 3:00 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the markers of adulthood is the point at which Christmas presents become the least important aspect of the holiday. I used to pity my father's "just get me some socks" attitude towards presents, but now that I'm 38...yeah, just get me some socks or something and save yourself the money and aggravation of shopping at Christmastime.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:05 PM on November 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Call this gut instinct but I really seriously doubt that anybody anywhere is saving very much money at all in a Black Friday sale, no matter what they buy or how cheaply.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2011


I have no sympathy for those whose shopping habits cause others to work 12 hours on what should be a holiday. -- Last year around Thanksgiving, my wife and I went to a grocery store to pick up a few last minute things in Harriman, Tennessee. The town has been struggling to survive for at least a decade, but last year, it seemed particularly close to the precipice. I remember saying to the cashier as we were paying for our stuff, "I'm sorry you have to work on a holiday." And she said "I'm not. I'm lucky to have this job."

Let's hope Norman Rockwell's vision of Thanksgiving becomes a lot more common. But until then, let's be thankful that people have jobs to put food on the table for the rest of the year.
posted by crunchland at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck that, I'm 37 and I want a Citizen Kane Blu-ray.
posted by grubi at 3:08 PM on November 9, 2011


(sorry, that was in response to The Card Cheat)
posted by grubi at 3:09 PM on November 9, 2011


> The two Saturdays before Christmas are almost always bigger, because the procrastinators are out in full force.

I still haven't fully recovered from the time I had to go to the mall on the last Saturday before Christmas to buy my uncle a pair of jeans. "It's on the way home from work," I said. "It's just one thing," I said...
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:11 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should all know that Target now refers to the day after Thanksgiving as "Green Friday.". Really. Because "we're bringing in the green". I'm not sure if this is something we're supposed to share with customers or not.

Anyway, my store has a volunteer sheet for shifts that night. Looks like plenty of people are happy to have the extra hours.

My other part time job is at my church, where we're still firmly in Ordinary Time. It's a very strange contrast. One workplace is Christmas consumerism run amok, even at 9 in the morning on a Tuesday in November and the other is slowly making its way through the church year, Sunday after Sunday. I know which one I hope keeps me on after the holidays.
posted by Biblio at 3:32 PM on November 9, 2011


It's been quite a week for Best Buy - Best Buy announces closure of UK JV.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:44 PM on November 9, 2011


I was going to insist that it's fun and exciting and then I saw this.
posted by Tarumba at 3:59 PM on November 9, 2011


(it's a pretty scary video of people being almost killed by a Target stampede)
posted by Tarumba at 4:01 PM on November 9, 2011


I started making all my Christmas gifts 3 years ago when times were tough, and never looked back. Its personal and you don't have to worry if they don't like it because they can't take it back to the store.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:24 PM on November 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to pity my father's "just get me some socks" attitude towards presents, but now that I'm 38...yeah, just get me some socks or something and save yourself the money and aggravation of shopping at Christmastime.

I've felt this way since I learned about Santa Claus, I guess 5 or 6.

Bah humbug. Don't even get me socks. Buy yourself some alcohol or drugs.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:26 PM on November 9, 2011


I started making all my Christmas gifts 3 years ago when times were tough, and never looked back.

I've tried a few times, but I lack both artistic ability and spare time ... what do you make?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:26 PM on November 9, 2011


Last year all of our Christmas gifts were jams and jellies. We got a canner last spring and there's a pick-your-own farm we like going to, so all summer as the berries were ripening we would head out there and get boatloads of fruit. I think we scared the employees with how much fruit we bought. We'd bring it all home, make jam, and then can it. I think we ended up with five or six different homemade fruit products, all finished by the end of October after the apples were picked and turned into butter.

It wasn't cheaper or easier than going out and buying stuff. We spent a couple hundred dollars on produce, plus the jars and some decorative baskets to give them in. And we did end up getting small "real" gifts for my immediate family because I was worried they wouldn't appreciate the homemade stuff. It was, however, the most fun I've ever had "shopping" for Christmas presents.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:37 PM on November 9, 2011


I worked at Best Buy from 2001–2003, spending most of that time in the Video and Mobile departments. In Video it was great because I could often park myself over in the shitty sub-27" section and spend most of my time yo-yoing in the power lift and wrestling those obnoxious 200 lb tube TVs from the top-of-display stacks. Even Black Friday your job was basically just to point people to the stacks of cheap shit they were looking for. There was zero opportunity for upsells and basically all of it was done by ops people manning the registers or trawling the circum-store line. They were under serious flagellar encouragement.

The mobile section was awful because all the bullshit normally surrounding phone sales—first customer v. returning customer under contract v. returning eligible for new contract; plus activations, flyer discounts, seriously flaky store–network interop, the tireless game of "What car charger will work for my obscure handset?"—was just amplified ten times. Plus we still sold POTS phones then. Think of that for a moment. And being one of only two or three there on Black Friday (as opposed to the mustered army in Video, Audio, and Computers), you couldn't really deflect the poor accessory and PSP (performance service plan) attach rates on anyone else. Also: Palm Pilots. Though with cellphones and iPods accessory attachments were usually decent—the effect of selling $4 cords over and over again to people for $20—at Christmas-time they just bought the thing to wrap it. Who gives a shit about accessories? Junior needs to have something to buy with all his BB gift cards the day after Xmas anyway.

So after I quit I swore a blood oath never to step foot in a Best Buy store again on the day after Thanksgiving.
posted by adoarns at 5:40 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this is something we're supposed to share with customers guests or not.

(Former Target employee here)
posted by drezdn at 5:43 PM on November 9, 2011


When we were kids growing up in the 80s, I used to get teased by classmates on January 2nd or 3rd - whenever school resumed after Christmas/Winter break and everyone did the comparing of who got what and what else and what more else. We were Muslim, and I definitely got questions on what I did to be so naughty so as to not get any presents from Santa.

So one year, we begged our parents to "celebrate Christmas." We got a sad little fake tree resembling the tree from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It was about 1.5 feet tall. We got tinsel - a shit ton of tinsel. What's Christmas without tinsel? And about a dozen ornaments from the 25 cent bin at the local drugstore. We each got one present, carefully picked out by the other siblings, wrapped and put under our little plastic tree.

So Christmas comes around and my siblings and I get all excited to open up our present. There were 4 of us. We unrwrap our presents, look around at each other about 2.5 minutes later, and think: "what now? that's it? man, what a letdown. what do we do now?"

Admittedly, you can't really just jump into someone else's tradition and expect to experience it as others do. But 20 or so years later, and I still don't get the hype. I'm so glad that my parents, as totally non-conservative Muslims as they were, didn't draw us into the materialistic spectacle. I took the "ooooooo no presents? What did you do?" questions into my own hands, and began encouraging my classmates to look a little closer at the guy they thought was Santa, sneakily putting presents under the tree, or the fleeting quick, blurry photo they took of him. Grinchy, yes, but it's not a Christian thing or a Muslim thing, but as mentioned above, it's its own weird consumerist religion, whose myths (among other things) I just don't buy. I do enjoy being markedly less stressed out than most people around me this time of year. No stress is the best gift I could get - and also give, telling people they really don't need to get me anything at all, and have one less stressful, paycheck-eating worry.
posted by raztaj at 6:25 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Midnight seems more civilized than 3 or 4 AM. Sometimes I'm still up at midnight.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Last year one of the local comic shops had a 60% off sale that started at 7am and went down by 5-10% every hour or so. I spent a hundred and fifty bucks on books and went out for pancakes; got home before anyone else was out of bed.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 8:43 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


If any of you fuckers come between me and Rock Star Mickey I swear to God I'll crush you. CRUSH YOU!
posted by mazola at 9:34 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


MiltonRandKalman: "I started making all my Christmas gifts 3 years ago when times were tough"

I'm doing that this year. It helps that my sister is having a baby and I get to make fun soft toys.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:59 PM on November 9, 2011


Any of you clever crafty types interested in knitting me a television?

No?

Okay, I'll go buy one then.
posted by grubi at 6:02 AM on November 10, 2011


Any of you clever crafty types interested in knitting me a television?

Sure but you'll have to tell me what you want to watch on it in advance. Or if you mind if it watches you back.
posted by librarianamy at 6:13 AM on November 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Too small to hook up my PS3 to.
posted by grubi at 7:05 AM on November 10, 2011


My mom's already joking about if I'm making their presents this year. Every year I get shit for the two-tailed bunny pencil holders I made for everyone when I was 7 but I still make presents. A painting I spent a month finishing is certainly worth more to my family than an iPad, right? I wish!
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:36 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christmas has always been a sort of gonzo season, when reason flies out the window for most Americans, and we do our level best to be the perfect enablers for our whining, pathetic, entitled youngsters. In my own feckless youth, the Sears Wishbook would be thumped out onto the table at a family meal with the instructions that we mark our quarry and remember our rationality, and we were one of those families where a hundred dollar gift was a once-in-five-years sort of thing, not an expectation. Back then, 'round 1977 or so, we'd wear down that catalog until it was a feathery stack of dog-eared corners, with items marked, crossed-out, revisited, emphasized with happy faces and exclamation marks, and Christmas morning was joyous, all pajamas and rampaging desire danced out under slowly descending clouds of shredded wrapping paper.

For me, it was always ruined, in some measure, by my astonishing ability to get my toy unwrapped, explored, paraded around the room, and either broken or dismantled in what seemed like a single blur of activity, so I am pictured in hysterical tears in most of our holiday morning photos for a decade, generally holding up a toy missing a leg or other major piece.

Still, there was this month of anticipation, and our home was the best place in the world to anticipate Christmas. I grew up in an actual log cabin, a relatively modest two hundred year-old farmhouse in Scaggsville, Maryland with foot-thick walls, exposed in our family room to reveal enormous hand-hewn logs and mortar chinking bristling with horse hair. We always had a real, and usually live, tree that filled the house with the glorious pine perfume of the season, as a plastic or aluminum tree was so far out of the realm of decency to my parents that one was never even suggested. We decorated outside with a single large wreath of real pine cut from one of our trees, mounted on a large plywood circle my father had cut, and lit with white lights, and would sometimes light the two small pines in the front as well.

Inside, we lit the tree with those big colored bulbs that ran so hot that they sort of baked the tree, releasing even more of that unbearably gorgeous scent, and it was hung with a mixture of our own handmade ornaments, the ornaments from my mother's childhood tree, and an otherwise chaotic mish-mash of decorations, to be topped with our gold foil angel with a real porcelain head, who stood waiting on our old Victorian pump organ until the night of Christmas Eve, when she'd fly to the top of the tree under her own steam, at least if you took my parents' word for it.

My mother took Advent seriously, and we had had a proper wreath and she would studiously enforce the weekly tradition of a short reading and lighting of the next candle on the wreath. We'd hit the date on the Advent calendar each morning at breakfast, too, invariably fighting over who got to open the next little cardboard window on the calendar.

All was not idyllic, of course. There's something to the season that brings up feelings of inadequacy and of being incomplete, and there was an undercurrent of that, too, at times. There were family spats, and frustrations about why we couldn't get wildly expensive gifts like some of the other kids in our school that neatly highlighted what we didn't know then, which was that we really didn't have that much money, with so much going into starting the family's fledgling business and paying the mortgage on a house that cost an astonishing twenty thousand dollars.

My mother, I think, was most sensitive to all this, and she was the most strident critic of the commercialization of the holiday. It hadn't been this way in her youth, she'd maintain, and it was getting worse by the year. We all knew it, sort of, in that way that you see a train rumbling down the tracks and know exactly how little you can do to stop it or change its course. We were different, though, and knew it.

What can you do, right?

"You know," my mother said, brightly, at dinner one night well in advance of Christmas. "I was thinking that we should have a wooden Christmas this year."

Three sets of utensils clinked on plates. My father kept eating.

"What?" asked my sister.

"I was thinking we should go back and have a Christmas like they used to, where everyone made gifts for each other and it was a real holiday, like in the olden days."

Three throats tightened. My father took a sip of tea, searched out and removed a bit of thickened sauce that had made it onto a loop of his handlebar mustache, and my sister spoke up.

"Wait, you mean we're all going get wooden toys? That sort of thing?"

"I don't want a wooden toy," I added, stepping in to voice my horror. "What am I going to do? Just pull a little wooden duck around by a string or something?"

"I just think it would be nice if we got back to basics on Christmas, since it's such a special day," my mother said, and we all just goggled, because she'd clearly finally gone completely insane.

We didn't have a wooden Christmas that year. That year, I got what I still regard as the best present I ever received, an Emerson combination clock radio and cassette recorder with which I discovered the joy of radio drama, the pleasure of recording The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series so I could memorize and rehearse every single moment of it for five years, the solace of going to sleep with Brian Eno's Discreet Music playing, and the occasional thrill of waking to "Good Morning," by the Beatles. I've gotten other wonderful gifts since, but that year, well—

It became a sort of mean joke at my mother's expense, the wooden Christmas. She raised the subject a few more times in earnest, then ended up sulking about it for a few years after that. We, of course, found it to be great fun over the years, laughing over anything so preposterous, so stomach-churningly outrageous as forcing kids to accept lousy wooden presents made by hand.

What horrible lives we'd have led.

The only thing is, well, it's not quite so funny anymore. I'm not ten anymore, and this year—this year in which the country I thought I knew really started to go bug nuts, with tea parties and rage and panic and endless, unfathomable stupidity, calmed with the opium surge of singing contests on television and the unlimited cultural mania over dumb women with spray-on tans doing dumb things and cheap electronics from China and...well, this is the fucking year for me.

I've had it. This is when wooden Christmas happens.

See, I'm not a Christian anymore, and it's been thirteen years since I stopped being a middle-class (by birth, not income, alas) white guy with a degree in poetry dabbling in eastern religion and realized that I was, in fact, an actual taoist, albeit one practicing a home-grown flavor of the philosophy that would almost certainly evoke a smirk in the Chinese observer. I don't believe in a historical Jesus, I don't believe in Him as the son of God, I don't believe that what we say happened on Christmas actually happened. It's not my holiday anymore, except by familial and cultural convention.

When all the old celebrants of the day in my family either died or moved with their jobs and families to places elsewhere, and when the old house in Timonium where we'd celebrate the second half of Christmas with my lovely aunt and uncle and my cousins and my grandmother and step-grandfather finally went away, leaving a void, I lost interest in the day.

For years, I had a tree. Later, running late, I started decorating the vacuum cleaner, and I've done that, off and on, for a decade, feeling linguistically smug about the social commentary hidden in what I call "the vacuum of Christmas," but I've missed the celebration and the joy of it. I get together with my mother, my sister, and my nieces, but it's lost most of that magic for me. Thanksgiving was always my true center anyway, with my beloved annual drive to Georgia, the magical family homestead there, and all my wonderful family, so who needs it, right?

I've reached that annoying age when I start to find out, more and more, that my parents were right. I worry sometimes that I'm just getting crankier and more conservative, and that I'm on the verge of obnoxiously declaring myself a libertarian and affirming all those little nagging rake-shaking doubts about the world of the future, but I think it's actually possible that my mother had it right on this one.

This is the year for a wooden Christmas.

I'd already narrowed it down, telling friends and family to please, please not get me anything, because I'm tired of stuff. I'm swimming in stuff, drowning in stuff, stomping around in a rage because I have nowhere to put all this goddamned stuff and it's falling off shelves and tripping me.

Don't get me stuff, please.

I'd narrowed it down to my nieces and nephew, setting a rule that Christmas is for children, but even that, well, I just reduced to gift cards. Gift cards to a bookstore, mind you, but gift cards, given because I feel like society makes it obligatory, unless I want to cross the Rubicon and become the cranky old duff I sound like a lot of the time.

This year feels different. It feels desperate, like those neighborhood parents back in my day who really hated Christmas, and hated their lives, and hated their failures, and hated the choices they'd made, but damn it if we all aren't going to be HAPPY this year. Just spike up the eggnog a bit and shut the hell up, okay?

If you don't shop, the economy will crash.

There's just this ugly, panicked thing out there, this monstrous mutant of the Christmas Spirit™ on the loose, metastasizing like a glittery, green plastic wad of cancer, and you can't turn on the TV, you can't go to a department store, and you just can't set foot in the media-saturated cultural landscape without being washed over by the whole thing, by the whole clownish grinning hypercolored sparkling LED-struing inflated novelty Santa bursting out of an inflatable novelty chimney giggling magical wonderland maniacal desolation of it.

For me, it should be academic. I'm not a Christian anymore. I'm Christian-adjacent, and I've seen and known many people for whom the faith produces wonderful change and magnificent humility, but I don't need it.

This year, though, I've had it. I've had it with the gloss and the empowerment of endless entitled whining from all the little kids who've been genetically mutated into the shock troops of corporate sales forces, their little dye-reddened cry holes yapping out orders to the adult world, lest they unleash the ruinous forces of disappointment. I've had it with Best Buy's CEO claiming that he feels "terrible" to force his employees to shelve their Thanksgiving nights to go in and open those wretched stores at midnight so that wage slaves can march in and fist fight over chattering dolls because nothing else will do, MOMMY. I've had it with packaged cheer, bottled Christmas tree scent to spray on lousy plastic trees, cutesy Christmas cookies stamped out by machines in the billions.

I could let it all go, and be that guy.

I've been that guy for a decade. No skin off my nose.

I could also clean up my table saw and make something. I can sew, I can knit, I can make things. I am the kind of man Thoreau wanted me to be, largely because I read Thoreau and made it so. The thing is, I like to make things and give them away. I like to celebrate, even when it's not my holiday. I like to cook and bake and prepare fine meals.

This year, I think, may be the right time for that wooden Christmas.

The old log house is gone, in the hands of people who I hope treasure it at least half as much as I did. All my uncles are gone, and my grandparents, as well. My father last picked a crumb out of his mustache fourteen years ago.

The country where I grew up is gone, too, gone away into divisions of Red and Blue, with us and against us, I'm right and you're wrong and everyone's just dug in and set to fight.

Like someone watching a train, I can't put my hand out and stop the juggernaut, but I sure as hell can step off the tracks, find my own way, and share what I learn in the process. When I was a kid, it was all about the anticipation, and the desire, the way it burned and the way is made me feel like my whole life would change if I just got the right thing. Sometimes it was true, and my clock radio with a cassette recorder changed things, and my Commodore 64 with a Datasette changed things, but mostly, the gifts are just more details in the day.

If I think back on how it was, I don't miss and often don't even remember the presents I got, unless I managed to break them in some spectacular way. I think back and I remember my family, all of us, back when all those wonderful people were still with us. I remember the drive across Baltimore and running across the lawn of my aunt and uncle's house, and I remember sitting on the hearth talking, and fleeing when their old Dalmatian would break wind. I remember playing in the gully behind the house with my cousins, and having long conversations with my aunt's mother, who I flattered shamelessly and who flattered me in return by speaking with me with the same attention and reverence she would accord another adult.

The gifts were always just the excuse to let us feel special, but you never know that when you're young and you still believe that what television tells you is real, and that what your friends tell you is real, and what the internet and the billboards and the itchy underlying buzz of insatiable need says is real. Christmas is the gonzo season for Americans, and lots of other Westerners, but it's only as real as we make it.

If I had my way, Black Friday would be the day for everyone else that it is for me.

This year, I'm going down early to Georgia. I'll pack my tiny red roadster like a piece of luggage, check the oil and clean my windows, have a lovely two-day drive down my favorite road in the world, Route 301 from Maryland to Sylvania, Georgia, and I'm going to unpack in the back bedroom of the house down there, charge up my netbook, and sit on the porch swing writing and watching the cars go by. I'll be out in the back with the roller harvesting windfall pecans, and I may drive into Savannah for an afternoon. I'll prepare the congealed salads, set up the tables, brine and cook the turkey, polish all the good silver, and otherwise work my fingers to the bone in the best possible way.

At midnight on Black Friday, I will be asleep. At eight AM on Black Friday I will be asleep. Around nine, I'll get up, convene in the kitchen with all my Georgia cousins who I only see twice a year, and we'll assemble some kind of breakfast from the mountains of leftovers, and eat scrambled eggs, venison, pecan pie, turkey, cranberry sauce, congealed salad, dried apple cake, snowflake rolls, cereal, and whatever else is there, and talk and talk and talk and tell stories and share our adventures and just be there, right there, in that moment, far from the crowds clamoring for one stupid piece of plastic crap after another.

Come December 1st, I'm going to start putting together the details of the best wooden Christmas ever, but before then, I will be damned if anything's going to stop me from telling my cousins lurid stories about the street people I meet at work. 'Round noon, I'm going to lock myself in the big bathroom with a book, fill that enormous seven foot clawfoot tub with scalding hot water right up to the rim, and float there, reading, until I'm one big pink raisin.

The way most people live mystifies me, but I was very lucky. I can't stop a rolling train, but I can share my own story, and point out that giving your children a wooden Christmas will be hell for about thirty years, but they'll get over it, and find that they've been living better all along because of what's behind that absurd suggestion.

Maybe there's another way.

And I'm here to tell you it ain't half bad.
posted by sonascope at 7:37 AM on November 10, 2011 [26 favorites]


Wait, it was a Lloyd combination clock radio and cassette recorder. I'm going senile.
posted by sonascope at 7:58 AM on November 10, 2011


Gah, I mean Llloyd's. Whatever happened to them?
posted by sonascope at 8:26 AM on November 10, 2011


Didn't open for Black Friday, Woolworth's did.
posted by Peztopiary at 2:09 PM on November 10, 2011


Someone mentioned Woolworths. Now I'm going to have to nostalgicly pine for the days when I would eat at their lunch counter with my grandma in the 80s. It seemed so out of date even then, but oh how I miss it. *sigh*
posted by drezdn at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2011


Loved the Woolworths lunch counter in Laurel. Our Woolworths sat about a hundred feet from the platform where George Wallace was shot. There was something oddly special about a place where you could buy underpants, yarn, clocks, a hamster, and an egg salad sandwich with a vanilla coke made with actual syrup all in the same place, and the loopy lady behind the counter with cartoonish red red red lips just made it all the better.
posted by sonascope at 5:34 PM on November 10, 2011


Interesting to see some nostalgia for old retail. Do you think your kids will ever feel that way about the Black Friday stampede into Walmart?
posted by bystander at 11:55 PM on November 10, 2011


frankly, I'm outraged about the whole thing
posted by philip-random at 12:09 AM on November 11, 2011


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