COMMENTARY:

Thinking About Shopping: How Black Friday Made Me Feel Like Rambo

by Fred Cederholm
Inside the store the exodus to the checkouts already was reminiscent of the mass flight from a burning Atlanta in “Gone With The Wind,” where the populace was loaded with everything they could possibly carry.
I’ve been thinking about shopping. Actually I’ve been thinking about “Black Friday,” resolutions, computers, incentives, plastic money, and Rambo. We now enter the holiday shopping season of 2005 in earnest. True, the Christmas-related stuff began sharing shelf space at the retailers with the pumpkins, witches, ghosts, and goblins of Halloween this year--well ahead of the traditional time-sharing normally done with pilgrims and Thanksgiving paraphernalia.

You see, the marketing of Christmas decorations and gifts is a big deal for retailers and the entire US economy for that matter. Somewhere between 40% and 60% of THE YEAR’S sales are made during the pre-Christmas, Christmas, and post-Christmas “sell-athons.” It is a make it (or break it) time for a lot of merchants and manufacturers. If they don’t entice US/us consumers to buy now, it will impact their bottom line for the entire year.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is a central benchmark predictor of what the Christmas “selling window of opportunity" will be. This begins with the day after Thanksgiving--which appropriately has been dubbed “Black Friday.” The use of the color “black” covers both potential outcomes. If sale’s numbers are great, merchants should make lots of money, and their year end financial statements will be in the black--as opposed to losses, which would appear as red as Rudolph’s nose. If sales numbers are poor, merchants will sink into the deep funk of mourning--hence the color black is appropriate as well.

In recent years, I have resolved to stay hunkered down at home in the days immediately following Thanksgiving--nothing could get me out in the traffic, the lines, or the shoppers’ madness. However... this year was different. On the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, my trusted computer friend of nine years died at 6:32 AM. Actually, it was just the tower, but without that, my 20-plus-inch Trinitron monitor, my printer with photo enhancement capabilities, my external Zip drive, etc., etc., etc. were worthless, or at least non-usable. The quickest solution was to get the notebook I had been thinking about getting anyway. I was already experiencing internet withdrawal, and it had only been hours.

In typical Fred fashion I spent Tuesday and Wednesday visiting various electronic and computer hyper-marts in the area. When I joined my family for Thanksgiving Day in Naperville, I tapped the “kid” database (anybody under age twenty-five) to translate computerese into Fred-speak. The decision of what I needed, what I wanted, what I should buy, and where I should go to get it (plus all the externals necessary to use what I still had that worked) was reached. I was even helped with a list of “must-gets.”

I arrived at the Best Buy store in DeKalb a little before 8 AM on “Black Friday” and parked about a quarter mile away. God only knows what time they and the other stores in that strip mall had opened, or when the first customers had arrived. Inside the store the exodus to the checkouts already was reminiscent of the mass flight from a burning Atlanta in “Gone With The Wind,” where the populace was loaded with everything they could possibly carry... and then some!

I managed to find a basket and worked my way back to the laptop aisle, where a compassionate member of their “Geek Squad” took me under his wing, and within minutes my new Toshiba Satellite notebook and all the stuff on my list was in the basket. I got a quick lecture-ette on how I was going to get multiple discounts and would save a bundle from the cumulative incentives and “Black Friday” specials. After a quick item count, it was determined I “needed” one more “goodie” to qualify for the maximum discount. What the heck, I needed a new briefcase anyway, and it would be a carrying case for the laptop.

I was escorted to an express “checker-outer” not too far from lines of the big-time shoppers with overflowing carts. The scanning of my purchases produced an eight-inch-long tape and a total popped up that was pretty much what I was braced to accept. As I gave the clerk my credit card, the sales tape sprang to life again, growing by another six or so inches, and the total dropped significantly after all my multiple purchase discounts had kicked in. WHOA! Unlike many of my fellow shoppers that morning, I was very fortunate, for it only took ONE credit card to close the sale.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping, and I felt like the Rambo of Sycamore Road! I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2005 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.



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This story was published on November 29, 2005.