I need a little help understanding something.
So many of us marvel over how quickly time passes. Expressions like:
“Where did the time go?”; “There aren’t enough hours in the day.”; “I’ll sleep when I die.”; and “It goes too fast.”- are not uncommon among the average family.
As a working mom with two young children, I will be the first to admit… I get it. This last week, however, I took a moment of reflection to think on these things just a bit more.
It is amazing to me how much ‘genius marketing’ plays a part in our lives, ultimately altering the way we live it.
Case in point would be the sight of holiday decorations (Christmas to be more specific) appearing in stores in September. I can remember a time (yes, I am old enough to recall), when this type of early store display would have been unheard of. A time when the later holidays overlapped one another by a week or two at best, not months in advance.
Sadly, eventually the trend spreads and it becomes the rule more than the exception and slowly seeps out to the masses. To illustrate the point of its spreading, one only need to take a drive through any given neighborhood in early November to spot homes decked in holiday lights. A friend, frustrated by the abundance of pre-Thanksgiving decorating recently shared that this would not be the holiday to skip.
Many that I know were in agreement. They shared sentiments of gratitude and excitement for sitting at the table and enjoying time with family and/or friends. But then, something happened.
The weekend before Thanksgiving retailers amp up their advertising. Be it through television, radio, newspaper or Internet they want consumers to know what they have to offer. The looming promise of the infamous ‘Black Friday,’ which has now spilled on to Thursday and last I checked…that is Thanksgiving.
But somewhere, somehow, as a society we have changed. By the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving people are not only planning their meal but their plan of attack for the best deals at the retailers that open at midnight. People are genuinely excited and anxious to rush out at a time when they should be sleeping to ‘get a great deal.’ To simplify even further, people are rushing out to see how much they can get for as little as possible. In the name of the ‘Christmas Spirit’ they are buying stuff and lots of it.
I still remember the days of reporting to work at 4 a.m. on Black Friday in final preparation for our store’s 6 a.m. opening. Early Bird Specials were typically two hours long, not 13 (which I saw in a recent circular) and camping in front of stores nights prior, well, that was unheard of.
Confession, I did shop on ‘Black Friday’ as well as Small Business Saturday.
I am an optimist by fault, so I arrived into a retailer around 11 a.m. on the touted day of all sales wonderful, in hope of picking up a few things. As I stood in line (for a while) I listened to another shopper share her adventures of the past 13 hours. Yes, 13 hours. She had begun at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, only then to be at Vintage Faire by 2 a.m., then onto several other stores. She did stop home to drop things off and grab a little breakfast and then back out.
“I had to get those boots my daughter really wanted,” she told the gentleman behind me in line. He was speechless and I’m guessing a bit tired just listening to her, but polite nonetheless.
As the woman continued on, thrilled at her finds, deals and ‘outsmarting’ of the retailers she stated, “It’s a game. I enjoy it and I happen to be really good at it.”
As I listened I could not help but secretly chuckle. Had this consumer actually been so caught up in her ‘finds’ that she missed the fact that she was shopping on ‘Black Friday?’ There is a reason it is called that after all and it is not because that is when people start shopping (in the dark of night). It is the day that retailers plan for strategically. While, they are geniuses at allowing the consumer to think they are getting ‘the best deal,’ truth be told they are making money and lots of it. Hence the name ‘Black Friday.’
When I was a buyer, we would place our orders months in advance in anticipation of the item that would make consumers rush the store for the ‘unheard of deal.’ Then of course there was always the ‘loss leader’ or sacrificial lamb. The one item we would break even or gain a small margin on, knowing that it would bring the consumer to us first and they would in turn buy more.
So yes, this lady was right…it is indeed a game. One which typically on ‘Black Friday’ is ultimately won by the retailer.
But what is most concerning to me is what we, as a society are losing as a result of ‘the hunt.’ They are ‘things’ after all…it is plain and simply just stuff. Stuff which will be worn out in a matter of months or cast to the back of a toy box by the arrival of next Thanksgiving. Perhaps this is the real game. The perception that you save so much on ‘Black Friday’ that it is fine if you do it again the following year and the year after that and the year after that.
Regardless of the deal or the ‘game,’ what I know is that the time will not return. The 13 hours that one woman spent surrounded by strangers, well it’s gone. As for the retailer, well they’re already thinking of what they will do next year to entice her to stop at their store first.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.