I used to get Good Friday and Black Friday confused. “Good” seemed an odd name for the Friday of Christ’s death; “black” fit better. Mourning, sadness, depression. However, “good” seemed a perfectly obvious choice for shopping and sales.
I am not going shopping on Black Friday. I am not.
But I used to go — religiously and strategically.
The nation’s history behind Black Friday dates back to 1869 — but it wasn’t for this November after Thanksgiving sales tradition. The original Black Friday was September 24, 1869, named such for a thwarted cornering of the gold market that led to a plummeting stock market (Investopedia). I’m pretty sure that’s not why we make such a fuss over Black Friday… although I suppose some shoppers are trying to corner the gold sales at the jewelry counter. Today we consider Black Friday as the day when retailers actually get out of the red (losses) and into the black (profit); I find it utterly sad that it would take until the end of November to achieve this, but I have been happy to help in the past.
Not this year.
It wasn’t until my youngest child entered kindergarten that I began hitting the stores dark and early on Black Friday. On Thanksgiving day, my children and I poured through the various advertisements folded inside the weighty newspaper in an attempt to find the best deals and the simply “must haves” for our Christmas lists. Perhaps because I had slaved away all Thanksgiving day, perhaps because I was shopping for their Christmas presents, I was given free reign to get up early and shop till I dropped.
All of those “Early Bird” sales describe me to a T. I am an “early to bed, early to rise” person, and getting up at 3 a.m. to help open the mall doors at 4 is no hardship. I could get up and get to the department stores a full 10 minutes before the official opening. In my car, in a prime parking space, I would stash a Thermos of coffee and a cooler of water bottles, a bag of nuts and raisins, and an apple — and I was ready to go for hours. Nothing pleased me more than to head for my car to unload packages, grab a swig of liquid and a nut or two, and then lock the doors and parade back to the mall — all while cars hovered nearby in hopes I might be leaving. As if! You snooze, you really do lose on Black Friday. Parking is limited.
Typically, I hate crowds. In fact, I think I’m partial to mornings because others aren’t. My house is quiet and I can think. The roads and stores and restaurants are quiet, and I can do what I wish to do without being hindered by lines or traffic. But Black Friday is different. Obviously, the roads and stores and restaurants are far from quiet. The atmosphere is energized, almost electric. I have found people to be friendly and in the Christmas spirit — although competitive and determined to get the items on their lists. (For the record, I have never been crushed in a stampede or seen live some of the cruelties I’ve seen on the news channels later.)
Back in the old days, the Big Reveal for Black Friday came on Thanksgiving day. These previews and pre-sales and other gimmicks leading up to Black Friday didn’t happen. I didn’t get emails and pop-ups declaring the upcoming sales or promises of being able to shop online. If you didn’t watch the commercials or buy the local newspaper, you were going to miss the best sales. So in the midst of cooking and cleaning up and recovering from the invariably huge meal consumed in the name of gratitude, I would flip through sales sheets, note times of store openings, and plan my day.
I always hit the mall. I could park at the store that opened first, go in and do my damage, hide those items in my car, and head to the next store opening. Strategy was the name of the game. Selfishness was also part of my game. As a mother of five, I found Black Friday a perfect opportunity to shop for me. I had no children, no stroller, no hindrance to the dressing rooms (because the other self-sacrificing shoppers were doing what they were supposed to do — buy for others; no trying on of clothes was necessary). Of course, I shopped for my children — my goal was to get my shopping for Christmas done in one day — but I would come home with an ample supply of new clothes or shoes that I would then have to wait to enjoy until Christmas morning. I would wrap the “gifts” and act surprised when I opened them. It was part of the magic of Black Friday and Christmas — except I didn’t have to sneak into my parents’ closet to figure out what I was getting.
Last year, all that seemed to change. Instead of opening at 3 or 4 in the morning, anchor stores of the mall, my department stores of choice, chose to open at midnight. That would not be early to bed or early to rise; it would be staying awake and shopping after a long day of cooking and entertaining. I was beaten.
This year, some stores are opening today for Black Friday. (Hullo? It’s Thursday! How does that work?) Not to mention that many stores will allow you to get Black Friday deals by shopping online today.
Yes, I know the Early Bird specials will still be in effect tomorrow. But the magic is gone. (And, likely, the best parking spaces too.) The frenzy will have died down, the electricity of the crowd diminished. And I will find sales just as good another weekend.
(I know I would appear nicer if my reasons were less selfish. I do feel for the employees that have to work on Thanksgiving; truly, it makes me angry that retailers are so money hungry that they take away this family holiday. But I somehow feel that retail isn’t going to change because of sentimental reasons.)
Black Friday will go on without me.
I am not going shopping. I am not going to the mall.
But the online option seems promising…