12/2/13 Black Friday Shame

I cannot help but reflect on the shame of the behavior of many shoppers this past Black Friday. Every year it seems like things get worse. It could be that since a whole year rolls around between one Black Friday and the next, it only seems worse. Perception becomes ones reality and I perceive this in a very unfavorable light.

That we Americans are so fabulously wealthy we will fist-fight each other over the right to pay for merchandise is a phenomenon hardly heard of in the history of the world. That there would be  riots for food during a famine, or for potable water after a natural calamity is one thing; but near riots over flat screen TVs and iPads are quite another.

History has shown us that the loss-leader type prices on certain items offered by merchants soon become the norm, not the exception. The world is not going to run out of flat screen TVs anytime soon, and the savings the shoppers received were hardly worth the trouble of maddening crowds and hazards to life and limb. The shoppers didn’t get a free TV, they got the chance to wrestle one away from other shoppers so they could purchase it at a substantial discount. I daresay that similar bargains could be found on yesterday’s Cyber Monday, all ordered up from the comfort of your home.

It turns out that the merchants did not increase their sales by opening on Thanksgiving Day as they had hoped, but merely robbed themselves of sales on Friday and the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend. The world can stand for only so much merchandise. There are only so many TVs needed, though it seems nowadays that many households have one in every room. I am not so fond of the TV as to need one in every room. I can think of nothing that would grieve me more. Winston Smith likely felt the same way; perhaps I learned it from him.

Today’s smart TVs have the capability of spying on us, monitoring our activities, and even capturing clandestine videos. Eventually the ubiquity of TV and its invasion of our homes could result in early morning queues of fist-fighting shoppers trying their best to return those TVs to the merchants. It would hardly be surprising if we later find out that those loss-leading electronic devices sold by merchants to those who fought for the right to trade their money for them did not have some evil spy software attached that reported to the merchant our viewing habits, and perhaps what other items it could see around the TV area. Far better than the focus groups dreamed up by advertising and marketing consultants would be the smart electronic devices that report back to those who manufactured them in much the same manner that Google seems to know what my on-line shopping interests are.

If you surmised that I stayed home on Black Friday, you would be right. My life-long friend Ludlow came to see me. We built a fire in the fire pit in the yard. We talked to each other face to face. We giggled like schoolgirls for two days, tended to the fire, smoked some chicken on the grill, ate some of Debbie’s divine potato salad, reminisced, waxed nostalgic, and generally enjoyed each others company as much as it is humanly possible to enjoy anything. We did not go shopping. We did not turn on the TV. When one is around life-long friends, one can be at ease being himself and enjoying seeing the same self reflected in the person also poking around in the same fire.

Did I say we did not turn on the TV? Well, I was truthful right up to that part. At 2:30PM CST, we did manage to tune the flat screen-high definition LED TV to CBS for the Alabama/Auburn game. Didn’t everyone?

Maybe that was why folks were fist-fighting over TVs on Black Friday…they wanted to watch the Alabama/Auburn game. It was the only thing possible that might have been worth a Black Friday shopping trip and a fist-fight. On hindsight, it was likely only worth it for Auburn fans.

I am not an Auburn fan, but I am thankful to the Auburn Tigers for providing me an absolutely stunning football game for the past two weeks in a row. As an SEC fan, and even more, an SEC West fan, I wish them the best in the SEC Championship game in December 7. I never saw a team turn around so fast. Congratulations, War Eagles. (To the uninitiated, that is how the Auburn fans are called.)

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