Black Friday

Where will you be spending Thanksgiving night? Warm in your bed, in a Tryptophan-induced coma, or camped out in a sleeping bag by a superstore in a line defined by crime scene tape with hundreds of your rivals for limited quantities of this year's model of Tickle-Me Elmo?

What I'm really asking is: are you a Black Friday believer?

Personally, I'm not. I can appreciate clever marketing gimmicks and catchy catch phrases, and greatly admire whoever dreamed up the concept of prodding suckers out before dawn to spend more than they imagined under the guise of saving a bundle. After all, if Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, extending its hours can only be considered making a good thing better, at least to those who swipe the credit cards.

But as much as I enjoy knowing the buzzwords, I consider myself immune to all that retail posturing. Why risk a trampling for a bargain you can't even get if you haven't already staked out your spot? Unless you're a "people person"--and these days you'd have to be crazy to call yourself that--you're better off at home. This year, is offering hourly deals along with thousands of products on sale for a limited time. Count me in.

Google searches for the term "Black Friday" are up exponentially. This hellish kickoff to Christmas shopping is generating interest earlier and more widely than in the past two holiday seasons. Searches on the term "black Friday ads" are up exponentially every year since 2005.

The brick-and-mortar stores want you to catch the fever, and they try to do it by controlling information. They withhold their specials until the morning edition of that old-fashioned hunk of dead trees known as a newspaper hits your front porch on the fourth Thursday morning of November. They want you to plan your spending while you're in a raw-turkey-induced hysteria of getting ready for a dozen relatives you don't really like, or a drunken stupor after the carcass has been stripped bare. Websites that have sprung up to offer sneak peeks at their deals have received cease-and-desist letters and have been forced to remove pricing information, known in legalese as "trade secrets."

If they don't want to tell you what you'll find when you get there until you're too whacked out to know whether you really want it, I say humbug. Let them pay their bleary-eyed workers overtime. Let them listen to threatened lawsuits from the plodders who became doorstops on the way in. Let them field complaints from the majority who didn't show up in time to get the vouchers for the reduced-price HDTV that will be discontinued in December anyway. I'll be home asleep, at least until my son returns from Best Buy and Gamestop with tales of marauding hordes and an armful of stuff his father let him buy. Originally published November 18, 2007

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