Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Friday: Now, but never then...

It appears that we have managed to survive Black Friday.  It's  the moment of epic madness that  somehow encourages us to believe that marketers are the only people in the know about curing whatever ails the economy. Even the New York Times felt secure in noting that the "annual shopping spree", played out  like a National Football League grudge match, was a sign of "rising consumer optimism".

Good for the consumers, I guess. Even the  woman quoted by the Times who said  she and her daughter  had arrived as early as possible to buy a 96-cent Samsung Galaxy S111 smartphone, which had already been sold, and settled for a 40-inch  Sanyo LED TV even though "I didn't even want it."

As for me, I go into denial for wanting "stuff"- as Bill O'Reilly demonized  the class beneath his pay scale.   With me, it's generational, I suppose, for someone whose ideas were formed in the b.i. era (before such i-things as, say iPads and iPhones)  with a first TV set that offered low-definition images that improved slightly if you wrapped a patch of aluminum foil around  one of the rabbit ears.  Today's newspapers are splashed  with i-things  to buy with help from the salesperson  to tell you what the gadget is without mentioning that it will be obsolete tomorrow.

Here's a sample of my own holiday shopping with my mother:

Having spent my early years in a very small town, the Christmas buying season began in early to mid-December with no discounts until the big after-Christmas sales - and maybe not even then.   Not even a fellow named Saloom, a friend of the family, would give us a price break at his modest one-room "department store".

My mother would lead me into the store past a few racks of clothing and shelves filled with boxes.

She advised Saloom that she wanted to buy me a  long-sleeved sport shirt that she couldn't put off until after Christmas because it got very cold in December  and her son needed a shirt to protect his arms from a chill.

Standing behind the counter, Saloom would turn and scan some boxes on a nearby shelf, grab one, and carefully open it on the counter.  It would contain 4 or 5 shirts, which he would  with surgical precision gently pull  out.

"Here, Helen," he would say, spreading the shirt on the counter and patting down the wrinkles. "This is
a little big for him now.  But he is a growing boy, God bless him.  He'll grow into  it.  You'll see."

Satisfied that Saloom was  an expert on shirt sizes, she'd buy it over my protests that I didn't like the color.

"Come on"' she tugged at me. "If you still don't like it when you put it on at  home, I'll give it to your  cousin George for Christmas.  He never complains."

Problem solved.  As I said, it was a very small town and the stores opened only during regular hours.  Nobody got hurt and  cousin George would have a long-sleeved sports shirt for Christmas whether he liked it not.  My mother knew he would not be a problem.

By the way, were you out in the mix on Cyber Monday?


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