Friday, November 23, 2012

Not worth it

It's black Friday!  Sounds sort of morbid, doesn't it?  In a way, it is.

I remember when the day after Thanksgiving was a big deal.  My dad and I would get up at *gasp* 5:30 am and drive to Caldor and Bradlees and Lechemere for their big early bird opening at 6 am.  We'd actually get really good deals on things we wanted to purchase anyway.  We even got free gifts!  I love free gifts!  We'd be home by 9 am.  No crazy lines.  No camping out.  No impulse buys.  No retailer tricks of 'doorbusters' that are more expensive than previous sales have been!  We went with a list.  A practical one.  We had a limited budget.  We hated crazy crowds.  There really were not any back in the 'olden' days.

Every year the lure of retail bargains encroaches ever closer to the holiday.  The Black Friday sales and advertisements have gotten crazy.  Earlier and earlier openings on Friday.  4 am.  3 am.  1 am.  midnight.  Now some stores opening on the evening of Thanksgiving!  Enticing shoppers with amazing doorbuster deals for the first hour or two only.  People literally showing up hours if not days ahead of time by the hundreds if not thousands with lists, store maps, teams of family and friends ready to scatter and fight for the limited stock of the best deals.  Advertising is starting days ahead, with pre-Thanksgiving doorbuster sales and sneak peeks at what's coming for Friday only.

I get it.  I fell for it.  A few years ago Target had a particularly good black Friday sale with several items I wanted to purchase.  They were opening at 4 am.  I had not been shopping on black Friday since I was a teenager so I showed up at 4:15, thinking no problem and I'd not have to wait in line.  There was not a single wagon available!  There was already a checkout line 3/4 of the way around the main aisle of the store and with most of the registers open.  There was no room to get down the other aisles with a wagon there was so much extra stock and sale items just stacked in random places.  Most of the sale items were already gone.  I literally walked in about 50 feet, looked around and walked out.  Got in my car.  Drove home and went back to bed.  Totally.  Not.  Worth.  It.  I swore I'd never do it again.

I went back about 4 pm.  The store was empty.  3/4 of the non-big ticket items were still available.  Some of the 'doorbuster' deals were not, but I later found them for the same or slightly more cost elsewhere and with no hassle.  The rest, it turned out, were still on sale the following week.

I understand why some people love it.  It's tradition.  It's wild and crazy.  There are good deals to be had and when you are on a budget, deals are worth fighting for.  FIGURATIVELY.  Some people have to work on the day after Thanksgiving so the wee hour of the morning shopping opportunities are the only opportunity they have to take advantage of the sales and deals.

I've noticed the deals are not as good this year as in years past.  In fact, several of the 'doorbusters' are no less than the store's regular price or more than recently advertised sale prices!  They are taking advantage of the public's desire to *think* they are getting a deal.  It's not about helping you save money, it's about helping them make money.  That's why it's called BLACK FRIDAY.

Back when I used to shop with my daddy, we didn't have a computer let alone the internet.  We only had the Sunday paper with the sales flyers.  There was really very little comparison shopping or research that could be done.  Now, you can shop the same black Friday deals at the stores from your computer.  Many of the sites offer free shipping, though not all.  Another change from years past.  Now, there is Cyber Monday.  A whole new way to hype. This appeals to me only in that it is my preferred method of shopping, no matter what the day of the year is!

Given the fact I don't like shopping anyway and Christmas time is a huge trigger for me, I avoid the stores like the plague this time of year.  I usually have my shopping done by now.  My choices are thoughtful and sometimes rather outside the box.  I don't mind paying a little more for a peaceful shopping experience.

Instead of the commercialism and hype, how about supporting a local business?  Tomorrow, Saturday, is small business Saturday.  Spend your money locally.  Visit a store in your community.  Perhaps on something hand made and meaningful.  Something purchased with love and forethought.  Supporting your local community and neighbors instead of the outsourcing of products and manufacturing to China and other countries where labor is cheap and at times done by children.  Visit a local shop.  Visit Etsy.  Attend a craft fair.  Perhaps make something yourself!

Don't lose sight of the fact, the greatest gift is not the most popular one or the most expensive one.  It's one from the heart.  It's the one you get when you see the recipient's appreciation and thoughtfulness in your choice.  It's the gift WE receive by GIVING.  It's not about the material object.  It's about the fact you cared enough to choose something thoughtful and unique.  The old adage that it's the thought that counts.  It really is.  It shouldn't be about expectation.

Some of the greatest gifts, are not even 'gifts' in the traditional sense at all.

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