Friday, November 28, 2008

Shop Until You Drop ... Dead!

Or: Black Groundhog Day

Shop! Shop! Shop yourself into debt!
Bargains, Bargains, Bargains and if you shop yourself to death
Tell Saint Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait
But you just got to have that Wal-Mart-priced TV set.
Black Friday.

Search Google and you'll get over 22-million results, the majority of it having to do with shopping, bargains and deals.

Wikipedia offers that it is "not an official holiday, but many employees have the day off, which increases the number of potential shoppers."
Retailers often decorate for the Christmas season weeks beforehand. Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. Although Black Friday, as the first shopping day after Thanksgiving, has served as the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season at least since the start of the modern Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the term "Black Friday" has been traced back only to the 1960s.

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. (see 'Origin of the name' below) More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers are in the black (i.e., turning a profit).

Snip ..

The local media often will cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began lining up at various stores and providing video of the shoppers standing in line and later leaving with their purchased items. Traditionally Black Friday sales were intended for those shopping for Christmas gifts. For some particularly popular items, some people shop at these sales in order to get deep discounts on items they can then resell, typically online.[citation needed]
Yes, local (and national) media covers the event, cheerleading it, like it was some kind of championship game, and we had, or are supposed to have, some kind of emotional investment in it.

"Go Macy's Go! ... Go, Macy's Go!"

Well, this year, today, that cheerleading took on the aura of old Rome, with the Roman cheering for the lions in the Coliseum.

Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede
A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old employee, a temporary maintenance worker, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too...I literally had to fight people off my back."

Before police shut down the store, eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the store clerk's life.
(Here's a Photo Gallery of that deadly Wal-Mart)

Good thing Sarah Palin wasn't around.

She probably would have conducted an interview, right in front of the emergency workers, oblivious to their rescue efforts.

We've seen these type of scenes for years now.

People (perhaps a good snapshot of those outside our mental healthcare network), lined up in the dark of night, in sleeping bags, tents pitched, all building up the anxiety, the adrenaline, proverbial steam coming out of their ears, to go charging the store at the stroke of dawn (locally, here, Kohl's was running their "Super Special" beginning at 4AM!).

It's become an annual stock footage time for the media, to tout whatever economic news of the year is, and how wonderful it is to see consumers out shopping, like juiced lab rats, in a gigantic, cheese-less maze.

And, boy, do we have an economic narrative to tell this year.

Burst bubbles and bailouts ...

Just about the same time this morning, that those Wal-Mart shoppers in Long Island, were snorting, and scrapping their feet on the ground, readying to blast through the doors, the New York Times Friday edition was rolling out, and in it, Paul Krugman's column, reminding us, just like the Black Friday Shopping Horror stories, we've been there, done this.

From "Lest We Forget";
One answer to these questions is that nobody likes a party pooper. While the housing bubble was still inflating, lenders were making lots of money issuing mortgages to anyone who walked in the door; investment banks were making even more money repackaging those mortgages into shiny new securities; and money managers who booked big paper profits by buying those securities with borrowed funds looked like geniuses, and were paid accordingly. Who wanted to hear from dismal economists warning that the whole thing was, in effect, a giant Ponzi scheme?

Snip ...

For once the economy is on the road to recovery, the wheeler-dealers will be making easy money again — and will lobby hard against anyone who tries to limit their bottom lines. Moreover, the success of recovery efforts will come to seem preordained, even though it wasn’t, and the urgency of action will be lost.

So here’s my plea: even though the incoming administration’s agenda is already very full, it should not put off financial reform. The time to start preventing the next crisis is now.
The Heretik calls it "The Con Game", and brings up a salient point;
These same people making money in the short term will scream too much regulation is a bad thing (because it diminishes confidence). How much regulation is too much? Any regulation. If you doubt this, consider how many more people are asking for bailout money compared to regulation.
Going back to the Wal-Mart thing, how many people will call for regulation of Wal-Marts, and other retailers, Black Friday extravaganzas?

Perhaps, next year, the stock stories and footage will carry some courtroom action.

Libby Spencer, over on The Impolitic thinks so;
The 200 or so crazed shoppers literally took the doors off the building in their rush to get that $600 wide screen TV. The store should be held criminally responsible for the deaths for creating the shopping frenzy and failing to provide proper crowd control. Sending a couple of underpaid, overworked stock clerks to hold back the mob is nothing short of negligent homicide.
And Mona, from The Art of Possible, as well ("I’d Kill to Get My Hands on that Widget, the Baby Jesus Tells Me So");
The stampeding throng took the doors off the hinges and simply stomped the clerk to death as a co-worker looked on helplessly. (The clerk’s family should have — in addition to an oh-so-Merry Christmas — a superb wrongful death suit, given that this is hardly the first such event and there was clearly warning that a fatality could occur.)

Must be part of the War on Christmas. /sarcasm.
Yeah, that would be the right thing to do.

And to make it comfortable for the retailers, and potential witnesses, the courts can hold sessions at 5AM, or, 6AM, maybe get through the proceedings so everybody still has time to go out and shop.

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania can get into the act to, stretch out their product and rake in some bucks.

They can roust out their famous prognosticator, Phil, and predict what type of Black Friday it's going to be, depending on whether or not the groundhog sees his shopping bag, or not.

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