Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's not greed, it's not racist, get over yourself and save a buck

I may not be the single most objective person to speak on this topic, since I'm likely the biggest capitalist to anyone that would even read this, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm really up to my eyeballs in Black Friday hatred and my disdain for those people rivals theirs for the day itself. I was about to keep quiet until an acquaintance went over a line I wasn't sure I had. I heard it called National Greed and Consumption Day. I thought it was a clever, tongue-in-cheek way to reference our gluttonous American nature... until I realized she wasn't being tongue-in-cheek at all. Then I heard that Whoopi Goldberg, in her infinite wisdom, decided to challenge the use of the word "black" in Black Friday. So here we are.

Let's talk about some fundamentals of the day. First and foremost, the word black (in Black Friday) has never been, isn't now, and never will be associated with African Americans. Not everything black is about people with darker skin colors. If people want equality, stop drawing lines in the sand that have nothing to do with race. I think nighttime is racist because the night sky looks black too. Get over it. It has to do with the financial crisis of 1869. That's the origin of the term. Let's move on...

Retail workers. This one gets deep. People complain that they have to work. No they don't. You always have a choice, your choices have repercussions. I had to work on Black Friday in 2006. I was deployed to the Middle East. That was absolutely not a choice. Do you think that serving in the military is more noble than a retail worker? Then you're slighting the very people you're trying to defend in the first place. I've seen more attacks in the aisles of Best Buy than in my time in uniform, for starters, but all joking aside, retail and commerce make this world go 'round. Don't take away from that. Next, many retail workers volunteer. In 2002, I worked Black Friday at Best Buy and made over $400 in one single day - ONE. SINGLE. DAY. And I was in my early 20s, when that was a big bump. It was a long, grueling day, but we don't go to work for the rainbows and unicorn farts, do we? We go for the money. Because of Black Friday, and all holiday shopping, stores hire seasonal help - that puts people to work. But let's leverage the power of greed to counter lowering the unemployment rate, even if temporarily.

As for them even being open Thanksgiving night, let me just ask you one question. Have you ever run out of an ingredient Thanksgiving morning and run to the grocery store to grab it before company arrived? Did you complain on behalf of the plight of shelf stockers everywhere? If you did go to a store and not complain, then you don't get to complain about Black Friday sale shopping. It can't be ok for them to be open on the morning of Thanksgiving because it works for you and you bitch later in the night because you just don't happen to need a TV this year,

It's time for the meat. Black Friday by the numbers. I find that many of the people complaining are those who are anti-capitalist and little more left leaning on the political spectrum (I'm not leveling a blanket charge, just saying that by and large that is my observation). These are the same people that tend to complain about how anyone even a hair's width below the 1% are getting screwed by the system on any given day. So, my lefty friends, let's talk about why Black Friday is fiscally important, since the only thing in the world that's not an opinion is how 1 plus 1 equals 2.

In 2013, Black Friday shoppers numbered 141 million individuals. The total receipt was $57.4 billion, plus an additional $1.2 billion online. I'd round, but for the sake of being accurate, we'll call it $58.6 billion. That's equivalent to the GDP of Afghanistan. Before you think I'm fueling your fire, consider what that means. We spend more on that day than the average of any other Friday in the holiday season and way more than the average of all other Fridays throughout the calendar year. And that number of sales goes up as does the amount of shoppers.

More people are doing more shopping, but getting more things for their money. That is higher revenue for stores, more inventory throughput which requires higher manufacturing. Any inflation in prices beyond reasonable profit margins gets diminished so people's dollars are even closer to buying the actual value, not the inflated perceived value based on MSRP gouging. Simply put, more things are made, transported and displayed which ramps up operations for manufacturers, delivery systems and shelf stockers. Point of sale manufacturers often provide additional terminals for stores temporarily (at a fee so they make more), and everyone from the cashier to the store manager pulls more hours and they make more. This is fueled by consumer habits that you call greed.

Greed, according to the Oxford Dictionary is "intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food." Considering that many people spend for Christmas/Holiday gifts, it's less greed than you may imagine. Sure, I've been known to buy for myself on Black Friday so I won't pretend it's all selfless, of course. But let's call a spade a spade here, people are buying when it's cheaper. Is this to get more? Maybe in the 1990s when we were all riding high. In 2014, many people use Black Friday, not to get more things, but to finally get the things they weren't able to get otherwise. Stores have even marketed based on that principle.

So since everyone feels this day is based on greed, you'd rather ignore all points of economic stimulus, shut down the spending so we can be gluttonous on food instead and make your fellow American pay full price later or not get it at all. You'd rather see retail workers at home, earning nothing instead of out in the world making money. You'd rather see people work harder on other days and use credit to get the things they want instead of getting it at 40% off at 4am on Black Friday.

You have the option, you can just stay home. You don't have to rail against every idea that's unpopular for your personal situation. Just sleep in. Problem solved. You talk about it being the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe people are giving thanks that they can get their kid the laptop for his school work because it's so cheap. Maybe people are thankful for the extra hours or time-and-a-half pay. Maybe people are thankful for the seasonal job. These are examples and theoretical, but they aren't covered under your "one size fits all" statement that Black Friday is the devil.

There are place where capitalism is ruled out and a sharing economic of socialism or communism is employed and the only place that works, is on paper. In the real world, people want choices. You have the choice to shop or not shop. American wants to shop, as evidenced by $60b in a 24 hours period.

So next year, I'm going to shop. I'm going to capitalize on the deals because I'm a capitalist. And I'm going to make sure I exercise my right to freely participate in a free market and use my freedom of speech to tell you about it. The only time I didn't have the right do it, I was defending everyone else's right to bitch about it. So, I'm going to put those rights to good use.

You're welcome to join me, ignore me, or unfriend me. You're not permitted to call me names or attack me. Your freedoms extend to the point they impinge on mine. What will you do?

1 comment:

bruceaulrich said...

Well written, Jay. I feel much the same as you.

As to the origin of Black Friday, I believe you are right in regards to the investing world, but in the retail world, Black Friday is generally used to show when a company finally makes a profit, or is "in the black," in accounting terms.

I'm glad you said something about Whoopi Goldberg, because what she said was just preposterous. How anyone could make that leap is just ridiculous.

I personally think we all are a little too consumer driven. I think we could all stand to have some actual holidays where stores are not open. However, I am a capitalist, just like you, and those stores should be able to do whatever they want. If some of them don't want to be open on a Sunday like Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A, fine with me. If others want to open on Thanksgiving night, great. If I really disagree with them being open, I don't have to shop there.