Black Friday

As I have taken to doing for Thanksgiving Day – and did so again yesterday – I have also posted several times for Black Friday. They go together as companion pieces, I think. Last year I posted a fairly typical piece, again borrowing from previous years and, as yesterday, I thought I’d do something a little different this year. There was one song in last year’s piece, which I think is worth sharing again:

As I said last year, I don’t think Rusty Cage is likely to make it as a world class singer, but he has rather nailed today, I think!

Despite its adoption as the name for today’s shopping bonanza, I first came across the phrase – as I suspect many others did – as the opening track on Steely Dan’s album Katy Lied:

As you will have seen from that helpful lyric video, the song is nothing to do with shopping. The excellent Songfacts site says this about it:

“Long before the term came to denote the shopping frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, Steely Dan released this song about the original “Black Friday,” when on Friday, September 24, 1869 a failed ploy left many wealthy investors broke. The investors tried to corner the market on gold, buying as much of it as they could and driving up the price, but when the government found out, it released $4 million worth of gold into the market, driving down the price and clobbering the investors.”

And for good measure they also clear up the Australian reference:

“While the song is about events in the US, it mentions a town in Australia: “Fly down to Muswellbrook.” Muswellbrook is a rural town two hours North of Sydney that is full of kangaroos (thus the line, “Nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos”). It’s possible that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen selected the name of Muswellbrook from an atlas, mainly because it worked well with the next line, “I’m going to strike out all the big red words from my little black book.” They also wanted a place far away from Los Angeles.”

So now you know!

Nowadays we all know the name as being synonymous with sales and the search for bargains, and it seems to begin earlier every year: I’ve been receiving emails announcing Black Friday sales since the start of this month, although they have intruded a little on the annual Christmas promotion (which begins in September, of course). But at least it will all be over by the official start of the Easter shopping season on 26 December, and the return of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and their poor spelling. There are songs about the dangers of bargain hunting, and today is as good a day as any for them. Here’s one you may know:

I leave it to you to decide what ‘bargains’ Dolly may have been offering, but as the song was banned in some of the more prudish places it isn’t difficult to work out! It’s a pity that her bargains were all used, though finding anything amongst all that hair would have been fun…

Some bargains come with unforeseen costs, however, so beware:

Sadly, Charlie Daniels passed away in July, but that is a great song for which to to be remembered. His fiddle playing is incredible, though I don’t think he’d done a deal…

I’m going to leave you with another cautionary tale about the dangers of becoming addicted to shopping:

As lockdown restrictions are making instore shopping much harder this year I guess many of us will be taking to the interweb to seek out our bargains. I just hope you don’t do it like Weird Al! Watching that puts me in mind of those antique shows that are often on tv, when people spend silly money on rusty old rubbish – and then someone else pays even sillier money for it at auction. If I were looking for used bargains I know which of these videos I’d want to follow up – I’m pretty sure the return on my investment would be better.

In case you think Black Friday is inescapable there are some places where there aren’t any bargains to be had, as not everyone takes part…

I hope you have fun hunting your bargains, and don’t then find that you could have bought the same thing for less when the ‘sales’ are over – check the small print as it can happen! I’ve already made the one purchase I was planning to make, so I should be safe from the advertisers’ blandishments. As long as I don’t open my emails, that is…

It’s Black Friday – Again!

After yesterday’s post for Thanksgiving Day it seemed only natural to give you a companion piece for today, as I have done in previous years. Whilst we here in the UK have mostly resisted celebrating Thanksgiving – we don’t have a public holiday for it – the ever-burgeoning commercial juggernaut of Black Friday has been gleefully leapt upon by all manner of companies seeking to separate us from our money. The internet makes it all too easy to give in to temptation (Oscar Wilde was right!) but there will still be many braving – if that’s the correct word – real shops for bargains on things they never knew they needed.

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 of the Christmas shopping season, and has been part of US tradition for nearly 60 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! Like this

Or this

It must be a TV thing!

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 checked the lyrics – always a good idea, to be on the safe side – they didn’t really seem to fit, somehow. I did find several other Black Friday songs, including those 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 would have given up on the idea, but then I found this:

It isn’t exactly full of artistic merit, nor does Rusty Cage have a good (or even acceptable) singing voice, but he does sum the day up rather well, I think.

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 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 decided back in 2015 not to take any further part here in the UK. Officially, this was because they wanted 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 meant was that they had decided that the previous 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! Judging by their website, they have kind of watered down that decision in the years since then, as they have a set of offers both instore and online under the banner heading of ‘RollBlack.’ Who do think they are kidding? Or maybe their customers really are that dim.

My inbox for the past week or several has been bombarded by Black Friday offers from just about any company I’ve ever bought from. It stands to reason, really. They are in business to make money – our money. They may even be making these offers at a loss, but hope to convert us into buying more from them that has less or no discount. Or perhaps they are attempting to offload the crap that they over-ordered for previous promotions, in order to make room in their stores and warehouses for…..yes, you guessed it, 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 (from 1981, back in the days of pre-history), I 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? Then again, there have been surveys here which report that many of the supposed bargains aren’t exactly what they seem, and better prices are often available from the same retailers at different times. Broken promises by retailers? Surely not? They must have been taking lessons from politicians!

So, if you are shopping today, and however you are doing it, good luck! I hope to see you surviving to be able to read my next post 😂