When Black Friday Comes

After yesterday’s piece on Thanksgiving Day it seemed natural to follow with a companion article on another US tradition which has made its way to these shores: Black Friday. Being the day after Thanksgiving, this is a public holiday in about half of US states and many private employers give their staff the day off too. It marks the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, and has been part of US tradition for well over 50 years: the name was first given to it by the police in Philadelphia (Philly PD, as they’re known in Body Of Proof!) some time around 1960, to describe the pedestrian and traffic chaos that it caused. Judging from some of the scenes we’ve seen on the news in recent years it is an apt name, more for what goes on inside stores than on the roads! Scenes like those described here, for example:

UK news channels carried similar reports, although to be fair they haven’t come up with any stories of mass hysteria so far this year, as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, I’ll stick with doing my shopping online, thanks!

I had pondered whether to illustrate this piece with a music video, as I’ve loved the Steely Dan song Black Friday since it was released on their 4th album, Katy Lied. But when I googled the lyrics – as you do – they didn’t really seem to fit, somehow. I also found three other Black Friday songs, by Faith No More (not sure what it was about, to be honest), Megadeth (the usual portentous sounding, overblown heavy metal bollocks about killing – come on guys, it’s not that bad!), and finally by Lil Kim (a foul-mouthed rant, seemingly aimed at Nicki Minge). You’ll be glad to know that at that point I gave up the idea.

Amazon is credited, if that is the right word, with introducing Black Friday here in the UK a few years ago. Since then, their own promotion has grown enormously and I’ll admit to having bought from their offers already – just a book and a couple of DVD box sets that aren’t available on Amazon Prime Video, all very restrained! It was only a matter of time before other major retailers followed suit – Walmart owns ASDA, so they were an obvious candidate for this, although they have decided not to take part in this year’s event here in the UK. Officially, this is because they want to spread their offers across the whole pre-Christmas buying season, to give their customers the best possible value. Or, back in the real world, what they really mean is that they have decided that last year’s news reports of customers apparently attempting to murder each other in ASDA stores to get the best bargains weren’t good for business!

My inbox for the past week has been full of Black Friday offers from just about any company I’ve ever bought from, both instore and online. It stands to reason, really. They are in business to make money – our money. They may even be selling their offers at a loss but hope to convert us into buying more from them that has less or no discount. Or they are attempting to offload the crap that they over-ordered to make room in their stores and warehouses for…..yes, you guessed, more crap to throw at us. That’s capitalism for you!

It may be hard for you to believe but I like to think of myself as intelligent and, being the proud owner of an MBA in Marketing (1981!), would hope to be able to see through the rampant commercialism. But I do like buying goodies. And I need to get some presents for Christmas. It would be silly to turn down today’s offers and pay more for the same things another day, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could just take another quick look? You never know what you might find that you didn’t know you needed, or that you hadn’t thought of as a gift. There must be someone I know who needs a bicycle repair kit, or some radiator cleansing fluid. But it kind of makes sense to try it just in case, right?

It’s decided then! I’m off to launch myself into the frenzy, from the safety of my armchair, of course. Happy shopping, and I hope to see you tomorrow, if you haven’t been trampled in the rush!

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