Has everyone gotten back from the Black Friday sales? I got back from my Black Friday foray a little earlier today. I would have written before now, but I had a little left-over chicken (we opted for chicken rather turkey this year – it’s just a better size for two) and dozed back to sleep.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I was done with Black Friday. I don’t think I went out last year. This year, I decided that it would be worth giving it another shot – on one big condition. I would avoid the big box electric shops (Best Buy, Circuit City) and instead look for something like CVS or Walgreens. My theory: not many people are going to waiting out in line at these places and there are enough of them to thin out the hordes. My choice this year was an out-of-the-way Kmart. It’s not quite CVS, but it’s not Best Buy. They had a couple of perfect gifts for Energy Gal and there’s one 5 minutes from my home.
I showed up around 5:35AM, 25 minutes before it opened. To my surprise there was already a line, around 30 people long. So much for betting everyone to focus on the other stores. Over the next 25 minutes, I played Bejeweled on my Palm Treo. (I may have clocked more hours playing Bejeweled in my time than anyone.) I couldn’t help but think, maybe I should be home using this time to work on the long overdue Lazy Man Gift Guide? Wouldn’t I make more money from ads in that than the money I’d save here in line? It’s probably a close call. In fact wouldn’t almost anyone in this line be better off working an extra hour or two instead fighting the masses for a couple of hours on Black Friday? I’m surprised the woman in front of me didn’t figure that out since she was so proud of herself for figuring out that her Starbucks habit costs her $1500 a year. Here I thought that everyone knew that… I guess I just live in a different world than some others.
This thought of working an extra hour and skipping Black Friday got me really thinking, “Why does Black Friday exist?” It just doesn’t make sense to me.
The Consumer Perspective:
- Wasted Time Equals Wasted Money – Is this really the best use of time? I’m sure for some it’s not bad. The person in front of me this year said that she spent 24 hours waiting in front of Best Buy last year and didn’t get there early enough to get the voucher for the item she wanted. That’s just craziness to me.
- Lack of Sleep – Hey sleeping is good. I know a lot of people who love to sleep in when they get the chance. I don’t understand how that changes when you tell them to wake up at 5AM for a chance at saving a couple of bucks. If people are concerned about their wallet, that’s fine – but there are a lot easier ways to save money.
- Fighting – The news always shows everyone fighting for the initial rush. Someone always gets hurt. I don’t want spend two hours waiting and then have it go to waste by a stampede of people. I don’t want to be part of that stampede.
The Retail Store Perspective:
- Higher Costs of Doing Business – Retail stores have to pay employees more to be their earlier in the morning. They have to set up all the sale items. And when customers trash the place (quite literally), it’s going to cost the stores more payroll dollars in cleaning it up.
- Selling Items at a Loss – They sell the doorbuster items at prices that I can’t possibly make them a profit. Perhaps it’s to get people in the door so that they’ll buy other higher margin items, but does that happen on Black Friday? There’s simply too much commotion. Everyone wants to get out of there as quick as possible.
- Cannibalizing the Own Profits – Pretend that I want to get my wife a digital picture frame for Christmas. There were some deals on them for $50 (one I even saw for $20). If I didn’t catch a Black Friday deal, I would have had to pay $79 – that’s more money in the store’s pockets.
I must be missing something here. Perhaps it is somehow a winning proposition for stores – I just don’t buy it. It seems like it’s mostly frustrating for consumers. It just feels like we should have evolved to solution that at least is a win for one side instead of this lose-lose situation.
P.S. For those interested, I did get my doorbuster items. They had decided to put one them on a shelf that required a ladder to get to – pretty unusual for highly advertised items that are smaller than a breadbox. No one else managed to find them (and I wouldn’t have without help). The other item had about 80 of them even I spent a half hour for the first one. I probably could have shown up pretty late and got both items.