Several years ago BC (“BC” standing for “before children”) my friends Janice and Marc were staunch participants of Black Friday sales, getting up at 2 or 3 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to wait in line at Best Buy or Walmart or Target or wherever the hot sale was to score crazy deals on TVs, laptops even hair dryers. (“They were so cheap, I could not afford not to buy three,” Janice quipped when I asked what made her buy so many hair dryers.). As much as I love a bargain, I thought they were a little nutty.
Nowadays you show up at some stores at 3 a.m. on Black Friday and you’ll be lucky to get a computer cable, much less a computer.
As more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself, it leaves some of us wrestling with our conscious: Is it right to promote—via our wallets—the desecration of a national holiday in favor of rabid consumerism? Are we feeding the “problem”? Or are we just going along with the times?
My Black Friday dilemma
As a former retail employee who thought it was bad enough to endure shifts as early as 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to as late as 11 p.m. during the holiday season, part of me believes that I should boycott shopping on Thanksgiving Day to show some sort of unspoken solidarity to my brothers and sisters still in the trenches of retail.
Then I wonder, am I really doing them any favors by staying away if they are going to have to work anyway? Can one holdout really make a difference? And do the employees care that much? Some, if not all, are getting holiday pay. Maybe it helps to be busy. Maybe they relish the excuse to get away from their families under the guise of “work.” Also, as many people have already pointed out, gas station attendants, nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers and those in similar occupations work all holidays.
But there is a big difference between needing to get gas on your way home from grandmother’s house and needing to go to a gas station and having what you thought was gas turn out to be a burst appendix and needing to go to the ER.
For the most part I don’t need anything that is worth the Thanksgiving Day madness. I am not in the market for big-ticket items such as a TV, a computer or a new washer and dryer. And retailers such as Bath & Body Works, Macy’s and Banana Republic are already offering great discounts. I don’t need to shop on Thanksgiving to get a great deal on a winter coat. The priciest ticket item that I have on my list that might become a Black Friday deal is a “Rudolph with Blinking Red Nose” (actual name) lighted 3-D sculpture that Home Depot is selling for $29.98. Because Christmas decorations are not on my list of needs, getting them on super discounted sale makes them more attractive.
No, for me, the Thanksgiving Day shopping intrigue is really more about morbid curiosity. I am curious to see what the hoopla is about and to see who else is out shopping alongside me. If I happen to score a crazy deal on something I didn’t realize I “needed” then maybe, and only maybe, I will become a true convert.
Last Thanksgiving, I rode the train back to Manhattan after having dinner with my cousins on Long Island. I arrived at Penn Station, a few blocks away from Macy’s Herald Square, which had opened its doors a few hours earlier at 6 p.m. I debated checking out the scene. Macy’s Herald Square at Christmas? There is really nothing quite like it. In the end I decided against it. But I can’t say that I am entirely innocent of Thanksgiving Day sale shenanigans. I did succumb to buying 50-percent-off-holiday cards at the Kmart inside Penn Station.
And you can bet that if Home Depot has its “Rudolph with Blinking Red Nose” silhouette on sale at 50 percent off on Thanksgiving Day I might be tempted to shop.
But Home Depot is not open on Thanksgiving Day.
Want money-saving advice for your holiday shopping? See our Deals section.