Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday

So, about Black Friday.

I'm not sure how it evolved this way, but the day after Thanksgiving has become the annually designated day for shopping madness in America. It's not actually the busiest day of the year (days very close to Christmas actually are), but for sheer volumes of people out shopping, it's unsurpassed.

Retailers have had "after Thanksgiving" specials for as long as I can remember. Like anything in America related to the consumer experience, though, it has been honed to a fine edge.

Ten years ago, there was a shopping center that opened up at 6 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving. Other stores opened up at 7 a.m., and quite a few an hour early or so.

Fast forward a decade. Yesterday, the newspaper was jammed full of ad circulars (piled together, probably a full inch thick). Huge numbers of stores opened up at 5 a.m. Actually, most stores seemed to open up at 5 a.m., and they were all advertising incredible deals to get people in early--in total darkness.

Oh, plus there were some stores (like CompUSA, believe it or not), that opened up from 9 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving day--then opened up at 5 a.m. this morning.

Total and complete insanity.

While my eyes were dilating in the middle of an optometrist's appointment today, I was sitting in the waiting room with a father and his two sons (ages 6 and 10, I found out). The father was telling his youngest son about the camera he bought at Circuit City today--at 5:15 a.m. And it was a display model, because they were already sold out of the new stock.

The boys were also hectoring their father about getting a Wii, and I mentioned that I'd gotten one, so we started talking. The father didn't know that much about the system, but the boys did, and they were totally amped up about getting one. The oldest boy asked me what games we had, so I told him. The father said that he liked the idea of the boys being active while they played games.

This guy was obviously a professional of some sort (I'm guessing a tech guy), but it dovetails with what I saw at Fry's yesterday, when this 100% certified white trash woman was with her son, buying a Nintendo magazine.

They were buying a Nintendo magazine because the Wii was out of stock and they just wanted to look at it. That's what she told the cashier, anyway.

Oh, and one more anecdotal note--in the first fifteen minutes that Eli 5.3 was bowling, he said "THIS IS SO COOL" six times. He was totally blown away.

So let me jump-cut back to the optometrist's office, where I was asking questions about laser surgery during my examination, because Gloria 4x.x is considering having it done. He told me a fantastic story about how, for the last three years, there are actually guys driving around in vans with laser equipment, offering to do the surgery on the spot--at a gigantic discount to retail.

I don't even know anyone who would buy speakers or meat from a van--people buy eye surgery?

The optometrist said the necessary equipment cost 500k, so it seems impossible to turn a profit--unless, of course, the equipment is obtained in some sort of "gray" manner. Plus it has to be bolted down and calibrated before use, not to mention the need for a temperature and humidity controlled environment. He said some people are so cheap, though, that if a van drove by and offered open heart surgery at enough of a discount, some people would climb right in.

Plus I hear you get free speakers.

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