Black Friday Rumble

I’m still sick to my stomach and it’s not all the turkey. It’s Black Friday. The whole thing has always freaked me out and this year was no different.

First, a few numbers:

  • Store visits on the Friday after Thanksgiving rose 3.5 percent from last year, to more than 307 million visits. Yet retail sales decreased 1.8 percent. – ShopperTrak.
  • Retail sales online this year topped $1 billion for the first time ever as more consumers used the Internet do their early holiday shopping. Online sales jumped 26% to $1.04 billion from sales of $816 million on the corresponding day last year – comScore Data, Inc.
  • was the most-visited retail website on Black Friday, and it also posted the highest year-over-year visitor growth rate among the top five retailers. – comScore Data, Inc
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s website was second, followed by sites run by Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Apple Inc. – comScore Data, Inc.
  • While Black Friday online transactions jumped almost 30 percent, the average ticket price was down more than 11 percent. – Chase Paymentech.

Enough stats. Black Friday began this year on Thanksgiving Thursday. The day we reserve for giving thanks for what we have. A day to reflect and be grateful. A day of peace. According to the National Retail Federation, there was a near 21% increase in the number of people making visits to stores or shopping online instead of celebrating with family. What the hell happened to our priorities? Black Friday now extends to Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Mobile Tuesday and what retailers are pushing for next years’ festivities- Black Weekend. Really?

And the underbelly of American consumerism is there for all the world to see:

A gang fight broke out at Woodland Shopping Mall in Michigan early Friday morning and two teens were taken into custody, according to Fox News. Meanwhile, in Covington, WA, a couple was hit and seriously injured in the parking lot of Walmart by 71-year-old driver who is under investigation for drunk driving. There was a Black Friday brawl at Roseville Galleria Mall in Roseville, CA. Over shoes! In a Walmart, fights over discounted Cell Phone broke out.  And to top it off,  The Baltimore Sun reports a 14-year-old was allegedly robbed outside of a Bed, Bath & Beyond at around 2 a.m. Friday morning. The thieves took his bags and punched him in the face before taking off. This is only a small sampling. Happy freakin’ Thanksgiving.

As a marketing and advertising guy, I am embarrassed and ashamed. How did our industry sucker all these people into risking death by stampede for a discount on a towel or a pair of shoes. Do people actually believe that’s the only day they could get a good price? In fact, many retailers, both brick & mortar and online, are advertising that Black Friday prices are available for the foreseeable holiday shopping period. Worse, many online sites use Black Friday deals as bait with no intention of selling goods at the sale price. Many people found Black Friday online deals “sold out” minutes after the sale began. The truth is, real discounts are few and fleeting. They are designed to get you to act like an idiot, to engage in barbaric competition and then pay full price for everything else. Psychologists argue the appeal is in the game, the risk, the fight to one-up the other guy. I think it’s a cleverly designed plot to get you to act like a moron. Created by marketing… geniuses?…. who are trained to know the consumer. And sadly, the consumer obliges. Next year, avoid it like the Black Plague that it is.