As the fall days continue to slide by on the calendar, I have begun to notice something in the air other than falling leaves, morning frost and a passing hurricane. I first started to feel it when I noticed that the lawn mowers at the garden store had been replaced by lawn ornaments that weren’t skeletons, witches, pilgrims or turkeys. I felt it again when I saw the Holiday Boutique Stores being built in Bryant Park here in NYC. It got stronger when I started to notice more ads for free layaway plans than for the presidential election. It was almost eerie when I saw the twinkling lights on the back wall of the Big Box Store reflected in the plastic bags of Halloween candy across the aisle. But I think it really hit home when I saw a Santa with a sadistic smile much too happily carving a pumpkin. Yes, Christmas Creep is in the air and that means his partner in crime, Black Friday, can’t be far behind.
But is Black Friday really all that it is cracked up to be ? Is Black Friday really worth choking down your turkey leg, three sides & pumpkin pie in order for you to rush out to stand in line for hours in the cold & dark with other bargain hunters who treat the opening witching hour like it’s the opening moments of The Hunger Games ? The Wall Street Journal earlier this month explored “The Myth of the Black Friday Deal” (October 8, 2012) and it made me wonder, Black Friday: Deal or No Deal ?
As many of you already know, I am not a Black Friday shopper. I stay away from the mall like it’s the Plague or a One Direction Concert. I would rather be the subject of a Taylor Swift song or a guest judge on CHOPPED when one of the mystery ingredients is Haggis than go toe to toe with a Midnight Holiday Madness sale. I have always thought that it was silly to jam the doors and trample people all for the one of two items actually discounted to the price in the paper (* supplies limited). Now it seems I may actually have some data to back my thoughts up. According to a study conducted by Decide, Inc. (a consumer price research firm), a lot of items that we think are being deeply discounted on Black Friday and its less evil sibling, Cyber Monday, are actually cheaper to buy at other times of the year. Decide tracked prices for several different popular consumer items online for a two year period and some of their findings were surprising and some were very predictable. It was no surprise to me that UGG Boots were cheapest in June & July when most people are wearing flip flops & sandals or that items like blenders & mixers got cheaper as Christmas Day approached. What did surprise me was how many items (jewelry, watches, etc) get pricier as Black Friday approaches so that those deals, while still below the suggested retail price, are nowhere near what you could have done if you had kept your eyes open earlier in the year. It’s actually good that I am writing this and reinforcing it in my mind because I am one of those shoppers who waits for the last minute most of the time and pays what I pay, high or low. Procrastination may not kill the cat (or was that curiosity ?) but it can & has been known to put a serious hurting on my wallet.
Now I will admit that when you begin to think like a retailer, there is a method to all this madness. The deeply discounted items (*supplies limited) do get crowds of people in the door with the expectation that once people are in the doors, they will buy something to justify the trip even if they don’t get the feature sale item (*supplies limited). In a lot of those cases, those other items are priced closer to their retail price than they were just a month earlier. You still get a deal but not quite the deal that you thought you were getting. It’s tricky path that retailers must tread in these economic times so making the sale at the end of the day is more important than anything else when it comes to their bottom line.
But is Black Friday really worth it ? I guess that is in the minds & pockets of the consumers. As long as they keep lining up, the stores will keep pushing to open their doors earlier & earlier. I just know that I won’t be choking down my turkey at a breakneck pace or out there fighting the crowds like I am in a WWE Battle Royale. I will be at home with my family on Thanksgiving & Black Friday because in my house, Black Friday is No Deal and we…RESPECT THE BIRD.
(this blog was previously posted at http://www.allrecipes.com)