Friday, November 23, 2007

Surviving Black Friday

Today is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers storm the stores on what is called the first shopping day of Christmas.

JC Penney opened their doors at 4 am and Macy's at 6 am. We browsed around Macy's where there were great bargains. But Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping is provoking controversy.

Firstly, there is a row over the trend for stores to open on Thanksgiving Day itself. Kmart, Gap and Old Navy were among chains that opened throughout the Day itself, and CompUSA, the computer store, opened at 9 pm to midnight enticing shoppers with bargains and free pumpkin pie.

Then there are the dawn openings that don't give people time to recover from the Day, plus scepticism over the bargains on offer. 'While stocks last' is the key phrase. Stores are using 'doorbuster' promotions to lure in shoppers but sometimes only sell a few of the items at the advertised heavily-slashed prices.

What do Americans think of it? Many on-line commentators see the commercial drive as a threat to family life, and many workers in the retail industry agree. They do not want to work over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

However, there are some people with unhappy family lives or no family who would prefer to be in the shops, and one employee said he needed the overtime.

Out on the streets of San Fran today 'elves' placarded 'Buy Nothing' in an annual protest against the corporations. And a group linked to Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping promoted a film 'What would Jesus Buy' and leafleted shoppers to persuade them to buy from stores that don't 'damage people or the planet.' Amongst stores named in their 'sweatshop hall of shame' were American Eagle, Guess Tommy Hilfiger, Toys-R-Us, Disney and Wal-Mart.

Of course there were many genuine bargains around today and we all enjoy shopping.

But retail blackmail that offers extra bargains if you 'shop minute...' and destroys national days set aside for family and Christian traditions need to be opposed. If it is happening here, it won't take long before the same pressure will be felt in the UK.

After all, what is the point of the great countdown to Christmas if there is no Christmas. Stuff the turkey, in the rude sense. I'm headed for the till.

So you see that shopping in San Fran can be fraught. But still, the Christmas decorations are beautiful!

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