Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Black Friday is bad

If you caught any news at all from the middle of last week until today you likely heard something about Black Friday. It traditionally marks that magical day when retailers finally sell us stupid Americans enough crap to finally have their finances for the year in the black (they have finally turned a profit). Every year poll results are posted tallying what the average American family plans on spending on Christmas shopping and how those numbers relate to previous years and every year you're likely to find a wide variance of results. One TV network says spending will be up slightly, another network says Americans won't take the clamps off their wallets for any reason whatsoever.

But what does Black Friday mean for Joe and Susy American? Do we ever see the benefits from rabid spending for 1/12th of the calendar year? I suppose that if you work in retail you'll likely see longer hours which would result in a couple of bigger paychecks but for the other 11/12ths of the year -- especially January -- those paychecks are far smaller than for the month of December. That's because people are spending like normal humans, they aren't buying crap for every member of their extended family. The month of January is particularly lackluster because the majority of overspending Americans are receiving those credit card bills form their spending orgy a month earlier.

Sure, the uptick in retail sales helps manufacturers but does it benefit Americans? Do yourself a favor and check out where a few of those bigger Christmas gifts you are giving are made. If you bought a TV or Blu-Ray player I'd assume it was manufactured in China. I'd be utterly flabbergasted if it were actually manufactered in America but stranger things have happened.

It's even worse if you're buying Christmas-related goods. All of those Christmas ornaments lining the aisles of your local Target or Walmart were probably made in China. I learned this as I pulled what seemed like hundreds of ornaments from boxes Saturday evening and hung them on the old Christmas tree. Nearly every ornament with a sticker attached said "Made in China". There's the first problem. The companies, at the very top, are probably based in America but our country definitely does not benefit from those potential manufacturing jobs because we've instead paid the wages of a sweat shop full of indentured workers somewhere in China. I fail to see how that benefits anyone but the CEOs who shipped those jobs overseas to line their own pcokets.

Lastly, Black Friday does little to further the giving spirit. Honestly folks, are you really going to give your big sister that 46" 3D LED TV you hulked in to your shopping cart inside Best Buy at 4 AM last Friday as you kicked your fellow shoppers in the shins because you saw it first? Probably not. I am not going to claim to be all high and mighty either because I'd buy the TV for myself just like you but in the end I have no use for that particular TV so I wouldn't be buying it anyhow. Sure, I'd love to have it but I already have a perfectly useable HDTV in my living room that will outlast half of the crap lining store shelves today. Black Friday essentially cons us in to buying big ticket items -- mainly electronics -- under the guise of giving to others but we all know that this stuff, all charged to our credit cards, is really going to end up in our entertainment centers as we throw the previous generation of TV or DVD player out on the curb because newer is always better -- regardless of how long it takes us to pay off.

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