We celebrate the day after the Big Thanksgiving.
Last week, we recognized Curmudgeon Day for the umpteenth time. This important holiday, which officially started a year before anybody saddled it with the phrase ‘Black Friday’, is celebrated by staying home and doing whatever you want, and simultaneously avoiding the non-believers, most of whom are stupid and/or dangerous and, as was proven this year, some are just plain evil.
This year, staying inside on Curmudgeon Day was a given, since the holiday fell right in the middle of a huge cold. We had several guests for our Thanksgiving Day celebration, which we call “Big Thanksgiving“, but one of them was not my voice. Still, we all enjoyed Big Thanksgiving, so named because we have a sort of open door policy for friends and family and always cook enough food to comfortably feed those who may attend. Instead of only board games, this year we also broke out the Wii to play some Boom Blox (4-player competitive), which spilled over into Curmudgeon Day (along with the necessary cleanup).
While we were warm and comfy inside, the original inspiration for the holiday, avoiding the braindead crazies that roam the earth on that day, was reinforced in a tragic fashion. Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old Walmart employee, was trampled to death by the more evil elements of this group. One story about the murder appears in today’s Los Angeles Times. The event makes me sick.
Last year, I mentioned that Snopes has debunked the myth of “Black Friday”. This year, it should be noted that all of the focus on purchases the day after Thanksgiving is nothing but rubbish. I mean to debunk the idea that sales on this particular day are meaningful. The media wants to use sales traffic as an indicator of the economy, and ignorant retailers want to project one day sales volumes over the whole holiday season. The basic and obvious problem with that is the deliberate manipulation of the numbers (via prices), which is not scientific in the least. When Galileo Galilei did his (possibly apocryphal) experiment at the Tower of Piza, the balls were both dropped at the same time. He did not have one person throw the 10-pound cannonball downward and another simply drop the 1-pound weight, and then exclaim, “Aristotle was right!”
The fact of the matter is that these “doorbuster” (literally, it turns out) prices skew the sales numbers into meaninglessness. There is no way to know whether (or how many of) these purchases would have been made at regular prices, and it does not take into account the actual profit on these loss leaders, so called because the profit is likely negative for the particular item, just to lure (cheap) shoppers into stores. Some reports have indicated that the actual number of “bags” is lower this year, suggesting that shoppers are primarily buying the heavily discounted items and not too much else. (Who wants to browse during a mob scene anyway?)
I suggest that high traffic on a shopping day with huge discount items is more likely to indicate a poor economy and holiday season, where people are looking to buy at the lowest possible price and may not otherwise purchase these items at all. My supposition is supported by the fact that all major retailers are reporting sales downturns, except for Walmart, which advertises based on discounted items (translation: cheap Chinese crap). It is said that one feeds the family first, and then worries about principles, and this tends to reinforce that idea. (Full disclosure: I have never myself stepped foot in a Walmart store, on principle.)
For many years, one principle that I have oft stated seems an appropriate closing here:
Avoid buying the least expensive of any particular item or service, because the primary consideration in producing that product was likely cost rather than quality.