Whatever Happened To Black Friday?

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I miss the carnage of Black Friday shopping.

Want that big screen TV for 75 percent off the regular price? You better be ready to sacrifice your body and soul. Unfortunately, once you put people and greed together in the same place at the same time, there are sometimes tragic consequences. People losing their lives over the sale price of a TV is mind boggling.

Not all Black Friday shoppers were frenzied. A small percentage of people acting like lunatics spoiled it for everyone. At first, it was comical to see the crowds lined up for hours outside a retail store, waiting for the doors to open so they could rush in like maniacs for that $3-foot massager. It was almost like watching a bad movie because the violence didn’t seem real. Only it was very real.

Retail stores began understanding the value of having special sales on the day after Thanksgiving way back in 1924, following the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s found that consumers seemed to like that day to shop because most of them were off from work. Thus, the Thanksgiving weekend became the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.

Most retailers operate in the “red” until Thanksgiving, expecting the tide to turn and have the holiday season push them into the “black,” hence the phrase “Black Friday.”

The deep, deep discounts on Black Friday were almost too good to be believed. Quantities were very limited, sometimes just a handful per store. You either had to secure your place on line early or get a part-time job at that store. Without a solid game plan for Black Friday, you’re not getting that turnip twaddler.

Many of us took a measured approach to Black Friday, studying newspaper inserts like research documents, allowing a motivated consumer to plan and plot a military-style strategy. Early opening times varied from store to store and there were travel times and distance numbers to crunch. Putting all your eggs in one basket was never a good approach on Black Friday.

My Sister-in-Law was a master at navigating the waters of Black Friday and my brother had the patience of a saint, staying the course until he got what he came out for. When our kids were little, we would spend hours researching a specific toy or video game, then splitting up into groups to cover more ground. Planning, execution and flexibility were the staples of a successful excursion. There were no bruises or broken bones for a fully prepared Black Friday shopper. Oh, how times have changed. To combat the violence and viciousness that accompanied Black Friday of years past, retailers have evolved and given shoppers so many options, so camping outside the doors in the pre-dawn hours is no longer required.

Electronic giants like P.C. Richard & Son (which never opens on Thanksgiving) and Best Buy guarantee Black Friday prices for the entire weekend, so shut off that alarm and take your time perusing for the best deal on a 60-inch Samsung TV. No matter where you go or what time you get there, you get the sale price. Even Walmart and Target extended their Black Friday sales until Monday. Maybe we should start calling it “Black Weekend” instead?

Every retailer is offering the same Black Friday deals online, so why bother even getting dressed? All you need is a computer or smart phone and a credit card. Place your order, pick it up in the store or have them deliver it directly to your home, kind of like Chinese food take-out. Too hungover to partake in Black Friday sales? Just wait a few days until you get back to work for “Cyber Monday” and waste a good portion of your employer’s time searching for the perfect helicopter drone for your kid.

Let’s be honest, I love this new “Black Weekend” concept. I slept late on Friday, ventured out to Best Buy on Saturday to eyeball the different TVs on display and then bought a TV from P.C. Richard & Son online Sunday, while sitting in my pajamas. Oh yeah, they’re delivering it this week for free. On some level I guess I’ll miss the old Black Friday madness, but at least I won’t end up with a black eye.

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Paul DiSclafani is a columnist for Massapequa Observer. He has called Massapequa home for 50 years.

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