Light Grayish Friday


I don’t deserve nice things. I’m a terrible shopper and an irresponsible consumer. I don’t buy enough. So when our economy collapses and we’re all speaking badly enunciated Chinese, it will probably fall on my shoulders.

I didn’t brave the crowds on Black Friday. I didn’t get $50 off a TV, or $100 off brand name electronics at Radio Shack, or  anything off anything at all, because I didn’t shop one tiny bit on the day after Thanksgiving.

So when the cinnamon-scented glitter settles and the store managers tally up their sales for this weekend, I’ll be the one to blame when they announce, “Sales were disappointing. We barely made a dent in the pile of cheap crap that we had in our storerooms, and amazingly we still have at least a dozen pieces of quality merchandise still on the shelves. Plus no one got trampled to death this year. A big disappointment.”

And that is precisely why I did not shop on Black Friday.

I like to exercise my power as a consumer by holding on tight to my money until early December, because I resent retailers who try to make us feel guilty that we didn’t buy enough on that one day of the year. Shoppers will stay up all night, sit in their cars on the freeway in backed-up traffic leading to an outlet mall, get bruised and battered just for the chance to spend their money at your store, eat food court food for two consecutive meals, and spend their retirement savings on things made of plastic, and you have the nerve to complain that we didn’t do enough?

Just once I’d like to pick up the paper on the Monday after Thanksgiving and read that a shop owner said, “This is fantastic! America really came through this year - we had a banner year for selling our stuff. Thank you, women young and old, rich and poor, for taking time out of your busy day and spending your money here. I mean, really, we know that you had a lot of dishes to put away and there was that Law & Order mini marathon on. We sincerely appreciate it. And it was a pleasure to serve you.”

Merchants and consumers are just not on the same page. Instead of trying to figure out what we want and how we want it to end up in our houses, retail businesses seem to be stuck on just getting rid of the merchandise that they picked out nine months ago from the wholesalers; back when it seemed like a good idea to order 1,500 ocean scene toilet seats and 700 George Washington Chia pets.

Think. Think about what we’re going to want to buy. And then stock up on a lot of that and very little of the other stuff.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, I was in Home Depot and I saw a Christmas tree among the 70+ trees on display and I wanted it. It was a table-top Christmas tree that was the perfect size to send to my son in China, who is about to spend his second Christmas without a tree. (Last year I bought him a small tree, shoved some ornaments and a little tree skirt down inside the box, and mailed it to him, along with four other boxes of presents. The tree box was the only one that didn’t make it. It’s probably sitting in some Chinese postal worker’s house.)

I found an orange-aproned lady and asked where I could find that table-top tree in a box. She checked her computer and said, “We’re sold out.”

“But, it’s the middle of November. How can you already be out of a Christmas tree?”

“Oh, they go fast,” she said. “We sold out almost as soon as they came in the door.”

“Really?” I was incredulous and even a little skeptical.

“Oh yeah, they do every year.”

“Yeah, OK, so . . . SO WHY DIDN’T YOU ORDER MORE?

Of course I didn’t say that. I said thank you and left. As a former Howard Johnson’s waitress, I feel a special bond with anyone wearing an orange apron and I try to mind my manners and cut them a break.

Of course, I could have taken the display tree and found an old box to put it in. I heard that on Black Friday, that tree was price-cut to 99 cents.

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