Black Friday-Fun? Or Unnecessary Stress?

By Chris Byrne

Last Sunday night, I was in Chicago, and Michigan Avenue was lined with people there to watch a parade—and participate in the “official” opening of Chicago’s Shopping season.

For the rest of the nation, that begins the Friday after Thanksgiving—or so-called “Black Friday.” While it would be fun to say the name comes from my mood trying to navigate stores on one of the most crowded shopping days of the year, the real derivation of the term comes from financials. The Friday after Thanksgiving was traditionally the day that retailers went from being in the red to profitable—or in the black.

If you’re breathing, you can’t miss all the hype this year. Stores opening extra early (Toys “R” Us is opening at midnight.) and all the hype about “door buster” specials. It’s no surprise that everyone is a little hopped up about this. It’s been a dismal year for retailers, and shoppers who have held back all year are in a mood to buy.

But do you have to be out in a cold parking lot the day after the holiday? To me, the notion of getting through a holiday and then leaping into shopping is horrific. The odds of me getting one of the 50 deeply discounted TVs or appliances or computers or toys are so low that it’s not worth it. I start getting jumpy just thinking about it. That, however, is just me.

I’ve been surveying shoppers about their Black Friday plans both in person and online, and the views are pretty much evenly split. For every person like me who hates battling for sales (though I will be visiting stores that day in LA to see how toy sales are going), there are people for whom Black Friday is a family tradition. They anticipate the fun of getting up early and waiting in the cold. For them, it’s like a sporting event. They thrive on the crowds and the energy. As one woman told me, “I’ve done most of my shopping, but the holiday doesn’t really start for me till I feel the excitement of being in the stores. I wouldn’t be the first to posit that shopping can induce a drug-like state.

There are deals to be found, to be sure, and those deals will not be going to me, but I’m happy for the other people who will get them. We all pay in different ways. I’ll pay a few dollars more for things because I want to avoid the crunch. Others will pay with their time and energy to try to score the items they want. Happily, we both win. When choices are involved, people usually pay the prices they want to pay.

My sense, though, is that deals will be going on all season. Right now Amazon and Wal-Mart are engaged in a tremendous price war, which can only be good news for shoppers as all retailers compete for the estimated $437.6 billion that will be spent this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. So, it’s possible that we all may save a bit.

This is definitely a live-and-let-live situation. I don’t get the people who love being up at 3:00 a.m. any more than they can understand how I could miss the fun. From my perspective, we both win.

Have a wonderful holiday—just the way you like it.

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