Black Friday’s Encroachment

Has Black Friday swallowed the importance of Thanksgiving?

I understand the motivations for Black Friday shopping. It’s almost a cultural pastime that is practically heralded as a holiday in and of itself. Many people are probably more aware of Black Friday than they are of the start of Advent. In recent years, stores all throughout the country close their doors (and reinforce them with metal rebar) the day before Thanksgiving as they prepare for the onslaught of frenzied shoppers camped outside and anxious to pillage the bounty inside.

From a strictly economic perspective, Black Friday is generally a losing proposition for those wanting to score the big ticket items: TVs, computers, and other electronic widgets. If one arrives at a Best Buy in Anywhere, USA at precisely 5AM, I am assured that any of the door buster item has already been purchased at 5:01AM. The alternative – to wait in line – is also generally a losing proposition unless one comes with camping gear, sterno, blankets, hot chocolate, and company (the latter is of vital importance. Misery loves company). Even then, waiting ten hours to save $200 sounds miserable. Sleep is worth at least $20/hour. Yes, I am speaking from first-hand experience. Last year, I camped outside Target with my dad and sister to score a 42″ LCD TV for $298. It’s mounted in the garage now with all the pomp and circumstance that accompanies hanging a trophy buck in the man cave. Was it worth it? Only with the right company.

This year, however, many stores will be opening their doors at 12:01AM, a minute after Thanksgiving Day.

There was a time, I’m told, where most stores were only open six days a week. The purpose, it was said, was to allow people to spend time with their families. It was called: a day of rest. A blue law. Now, a store not opened on a Sunday is the exception than the norm. With all the hustle and bustle of modern life, the only days where one can guess that a store will be closed is on a federal holiday. Even then, exceptions exist. This year, stores are pushing against the limit of when doors will open. Midnight is the new 5AM.

For a store employee, Thanksgiving becomes synonymous with “Thank God I have a job.” For a consumer, this means no waiting through the wee hours of the night. Of course, this also means possibly skipping the Thanksgiving Day dinner to land a spot in line. Or, quite possibly, it could require pushing up Thanksgiving Day dinner to finish early enough to make it in front of the store. At the very least, Americans should consider holding the turkey if they plan on shopping afterward.

As I sit back, I wonder: with everyone lining up earlier and earlier – has the frenzy to scoop up the best deal taken place of the family shared Thanksgiving Day turkey? If so, how is this negative and what, if anything, should be done about it?

Comments appreciated.