Black Friday Because Money Is Nothing Worth Saving
Although not exactly an official holiday, because so many take the day after Thanksgiving off, Black Friday is recognized as the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Retailers often decorate for the Christmas season weeks even months before. But nevertheless, many retailers open very early, typically five in the morning or earlier, and offer door buster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. The term Black Friday is supposed to have originated as a reference to the heavy traffic on that day and the beginning of the period in which many retailers are operating in the black and actually earning a profit.
In many places it is not uncommon to see news stories of shoppers lined up hours before stores with big sales open. Once the store opens, shoppers will stampede like credit card carrying cattle afraid that the stores may have only a few of the big draw items. Local media often promotes the frenzy and will cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began lining up at various stores and providing video of the shoppers standing in line and later leaving with their purchased but questionably affordable items.
Here in St. Louis, the local news reported that there was a gentleman camping outside one of the local Best Buy stores before the store even closed Wednesday night. The Best Buy will open about five so this guy waited about thirty six hours and for what? If this man had a real life he would’ve kept things in perspective, kept the need to consume balanced with his need to continue with the rest of his life. But the need to perpetuate the hype, the need to add to the frenzy, the need to help perpetuate business as usual takes precedence over the exercise of common sense.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the young man camping outside the Best Buy is a store employee. The store manager wants to manufacture the idea people need to come to this particular store to get the real deals so a deal was struck where this guy could get something in return whether it’s being paid or exchanged for time off or something else that might not be worth the temporary life stoppage. But someone driving buy or hearing about the early retail camper on the news like I did would be influenced to think that they have to get in line as well in order to have a better chance of going broke or going into debt.
All year long we have been hearing about the condition of our economy and how people need to be a lot more careful with their spending. People need to save money and make sure they have enough wealth on hand to weather any hidden financial storms that might be coming our way. All that logical advice gets thrown out the window. Yes we need to be careful with our finances, but this is a relatively brand new tradition to help retailers drum up the business that helps the retailers. It is probably in somebody’s directive somewhere that the local news must promote retailers if the television station wants retailers to advertise on their channel.
This morning, many of us have forgotten the lessons we have spent the past year learning and have made the choice to continue as if our lives as retail consumers will continue indefinitely. Even with talk about the domestic auto industry collapsing and the devastating economic ripple has the potential to affect one out of ten of us directly and everyone with absolutely few exceptions indirectly, we will continue to spend and borrow and foolishly give away our money, the only thing that the majority of people value about us.
We know we need money to survive and to prepare for a better future for our family. But instead of spending money wisely and investing in our future we are spending money on cutting edge electronics and popular toys that will be obsolete by the time they’re carted outside to a waiting vehicle. Money that could have been used for the purchase of health insurance or life insurance or an education or whatever that has the real potential to improve and/or maintain a standard of living over the long term will instead by used to buy a trinket. It might be an expensive trinket, but it is a trinket nevertheless.
Yesterday, many of us gathered together around the dining room table to give genuine heart felt thanks for our good fortune. Today many of us are willing to line up at some retailers front door for our chance to blow that good fortune away. That’s okay. God will bless us with enough good fortune next year so that we can blow it all away again. It’s tradition. And despite whatever we learn over the year that says a new tradition of poverty might be in our future, until it comes, it’s business as usual.