The holiday shopping report, before it even happens
By RICHARD ROEPER November 19, 2012 4:12PM
Updated: December 21, 2012 6:05AM
“When Black Friday comes, I’m gonna stake my claim …” — Steely Dan, “Black Friday,” which had nothing to do with idiotic shopping frenzies.
Some four days before the gates will swing open and the madness will ensue, some of the early Tent People were already camped out in America’s parking lots.
You know the creatures to which I refer. On Monday morning, some of the local and national TV shows were running video of those bargain-hunting maniacs who will spend the week living in tents as they wait for their favorite Big Box store or shopping mall to open on Thanksgiving night/Black Friday morning.
They’ve got their sleeping bags. Their changes of clothes. Their shaving kits. Their supplies of food and water. Their portable TV sets. Their electronic communication devices.
Here’s a thought: If you can afford all that stuff and you can afford to spend more than half a week of your lifespan camping out for bargains, maybe you can afford to skip those bargains in the first place.
Also, what you’re doing is just monumentally stupid.
Jingle all the way
No one can predict the future with 100 percent certainty, but I’d say it’s 99.9 percent certain we’ll see extensive media coverage of the following events unfold in the days to come:
• Between football action on Thanksgiving Day, the newscasts will run features on those hardcore Black Friday shoppers already lined up outside their favorite shopping malls and Big Box stores. We’ll see the obligatory interview with the Determined Mom or the Really Cool Uncle or the Family That Shops Together, all of them nearly giddy with self-congratulation as they explain how nothing will stop them from getting the items their family members so desperately need.
Which brings us to the question: If you’re so into the family togetherness thing, why are you spending Thanksgiving Day waiting in line with a bunch of strangers?
• Every financial analyst who has ever appeared on TV will be in front of the cameras again, telling us this is the most important holiday shopping season since at least last year, which was also an important holiday shopping season. Turns out the economy is sluggish, and retailers really need the holiday push. Can someone please tell me the last year when retailers DIDN’T need that holiday push? It had to be pre-Dickens.
• Some business reporters will point out you can find similar and in some cases even better bargains simply by doing a little online diligence. This will have no impact on the Tent People. They don’t want to hear it.
• When the doors fling open in the pre-dawn hours on Friday, we’ll see the familiar, jostled-cameraman footage as shoppers storm the gates.
• By mid-morning on Friday, we’ll be seeing the first of the viral videos showing shoppers pushing, elbowing and jostling with each other in the quest for treasured items.
• By noon Friday, we’ll be seeing the first of the viral videos showing shoppers tumbling to the ground, getting into fistfights, knocking over security personnel and making children cry. Teary shoppers will be telling the story of how they lost their kids in the frenzy, or they got punched right in the head by some man who cut in front of them in line, or they thought everybody was going to die, and why didn’t the store do a better job with security? We’ll also see interviews with “security,” which in some cases means an off-duty cop and in some cases means a 17-year-old kid that just got hired last week to help out with the holiday crunch.
Not that Black Friday will be the only story we’ll see on the local and national news over the long weekend. Let’s not forget the time-honored Travel Nightmare package, which will include interviews with stranded travelers, video of folks sleeping on airport floors, spokespeople for the airlines advising people to call ahead or go online to make sure their flights are leaving on schedule — and let’s cut to the weather!
Nothing wrong with any of this coverage. It’s necessary, informative AND entertaining.
It’s also the media equivalent of comfort food — and for those of us who do our best to avoid non-online shopping and airport traveling over Thanksgiving weekend, it makes us feel pretty good about ourselves from the comfort of the sofa.