Wednesday, November 30, 2011


November 30, 2011

Black Friday is but a dark memory already, thankfully, because I’ve seen the light. What a relief to be able to hunt for good deals now without getting a sudden painful elbow in the gut or a handbag in the schnozz.
I’m giving the apres-Thanksgiving bloodbaths a miss after this year: no wish to spend a freezing night outside some store in order to emerge with nothing but high-heel-shaped indentations in my back. Or even engage in what one might call Intense Shoulder Jousting with other frenzied shoppers.
“You went to Macy’s? What’d you get?” Maced. Some police lieutenant pepper-sprayed me to clear himself a path to the doughnut counter. Can you imagine? And I was only on my way to Men’s Shoes!
I don’t need anything that badly. Or if I do it’s not worth battling the enraged bull grannies and being slapped around the face with that underarm female flab the British call bingo wings. We’ve all seen the news footage of bargain-hunters foaming at the mouth as they wrestle over garments and toys, and the videos of crowds actually breaking down the store doors, physically.
Onrushing hordes can kill. Rabid New York shoppers smashed a Walmart front door down and trampled a greeter, and at a California Toys R Us two guys whose wives were fighting shot each other to death. Women shoppers have been paralyzed, had miscarriages and other serious injuries.
Those crazy closeouts are tumultuous free-for-alls with women the most lethal. Normally demure ladies become fevered wolverines at the merest whiffette of a bargain. I’ve known quite a few like that; they crook their little pinky when they take tea in dainty flowered cups, but then... who’s that dragon at the big sale? It’s a transformation that Dr Jekyll would envy.
Even at the smaller clearance events you cannot let these femmes off the leash in a mall. Notwithstanding, it would be most rewarding to see teenaged thugs run for their lives before such an onslaught.
The physical danger is far less at the January sales with granny stampedes only rare these days. But the downside here is that you wind up buying more than you intended; you want to snap up all the goodies. And yet, are sale items worth the hassle? They’re often end-of-the-liners, about to be overtaken by the new model, but sure, there are bargains to be had.
Am I being age-ist? Perhaps sexist in singling out women as the most violent? Maybe, but Rudyard Kipling knew that in 1911 when he wrote: “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.” He wasn’t just talking about she-bears and I’m not singling out grandmothers: it’s just that that is the caricature.
The original Black Friday was on a previous week, November 18, 1910 and in England. It featured determined women too: these made up a 300-strong delegation of Suffragettes petitioning Parliament for voting rights who were met instead with police violence. Two women died and 200 were arrested.
I’m through with the annual struggle, though. In fact I’m never going to attend those kinds of sales ever again. In my diary Black Friday is blacklisted, even though many stores are now opening at midnight, or even late on Thanksgiving Day itself. And here’s my beef about that: what about the poor souls of low end retail who’re now forced to work on this, one of America’s most treasured holidays?
It’s our old friend Greed. One of the seven deadly sins and so prevalent in our present-day society. The merchants covet more money, so they “invite” their store clerks to work on a day they themselves share with their relatives.
Macys, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target and many others opened at midnight, their clerks required to come in at least an hour before. “Sorry, Mom, I know you got here yesterday and you need to go back tomorrow. Yes I’m aware it’s a 2,000 mile round trip just for Thanksgiving with me and the kids, but I have to go to work. I really need this job.”
Point made.
Let’s now look at whether it’s even worth a dirty, shivering night on the sidewalk to get a good deal and the answer is no and here’s why.
Advertised items are sometimes nowhere to be found, a tactic of the bait-and-switch variety. Among the cheap-and-nasties and the cheap-and-cheerfuls on offer are other items that have been reduced hardly at all in price, often TVs that those crafty retailers are trying to deceive you into buying. They also impose stricter rules on returns and therefore it’s vital to ask for an individual gift receipt for each item.
Doorbusters don’t mean freebies, as many will have discovered this year. Cyber Monday is to Black Friday what turkey sandwiches are to turkey – with higher prices. And Black Friday prices themselves are almost always beaten during the year. But the advice I follow is to go online, because it’s all available there. Year round.
So in future I think I’ll pass on this opportunity to be flattened a la Tom & Jerry by a trundling herd of baying belles.
However were someone to put out a $5 video of these skirmishes I’ll buy it. Hopefully with titles like Bargain Babes vs. Checkout Chicks, Dropkick Hotties Of Blood Mall and Clash of the Bingo Wings.


© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.