The PJ Tatler

Black Friday Madness: Door Busters Turn into Face Busters

Drudge is calling it “Whack Friday” and his headlines tell the story:

Shoppers Brawl Over BARBIE Doll At WALMART…

Cops Pry Women Off Of TVs…

‘Shoppers Literally Stealing Items From Other People’s Carts’…

Man Tries To Wrestle Away Home Theater System…

It’s hard to reconcile the spirit of the season with grasping, shoving, punching customers in a rugby scrum trying to pry away the latest hot toy or home electronics gadget.

Here’s a compilation of the madness at one Walmart store:

Certainly, some blame must lie with retailers. Do you really need to slash prices 50,60, or 70% to get people to come into the store? The free for alls are the result of the retailer deliberately buying a small number of sales items, which is understandable. Otherwise, they’d lose their shirts. But if you have 1000 people going for a home theater system that’s 50% off and only put 50 on the shelves, there is going to be violence.

Unfortunately, that’s the culture now. People expect the deep discounts and wouldn’t patronize a store that stops the madness.

The stores are opening earlier every year. I remember when stores were being daring by opening at 6:00 AM on Friday. Now it’s 1:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day. In 5 years it might be Halloween night.

The pretentious pundit might rail against capitalism and acquisitiveness in American society to explain the madness. You might as well rant against human nature. And then there are the commentators who think Black Friday’s madness is a sign of America’s class divide:

Increasingly, the seasonal shopping surge has become a window into America’s class divide, in which high earners have benefited from a booming stock market and rising home prices as many others still grapple with stagnant incomes and lingering financial anxiety.

Consider these opposite scenarios: In 2013, Bloomingdale’s went against the grain by offering fewer Black Friday bargains than the year before, according to the advertising experts at bestblackfriday.com. At a Wal-Mart, customers elbowed one another to get their hands on Crayola crayon sets, marked down to $11 from nearly $20. (A trending Twitter hashtag last Thanksgiving was #Walmart Fights.)

“You have people who really need a bargain — they will sit out for two days to get that deal because that may be the only big thing they can afford for the whole family,” said Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group. “Luxury retailers don’t do very well on Black Friday because their customers are not going to fight the crowds.”

These are the families that retailers fight over Thanksgiving night — ones with limited budgets who are willing to gobble down their apple pie and hustle to the malls to score enough discounts to check off Christmas lists, said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics Inc.

“Once they have spent their budgets, they are done,” Perkins said. “Retailers know if they get them first, they may not have anything left to go to other stores.”

The theory that by opening earlier than the competition, you grab a bigger share of the customer’s holiday budget rarely pans out. Sue went to a big retail store last year on Black Friday at 4:00 PM and reported only modest crowds and a short wait at the checkout line.  Of course, most of the door buster items were long gone, but retailers don’t make any money on those products anyway.

There have been suggestions for years that towns and cities re-establish “blue laws” that mandate the opening and closing of stores — especially on holidays.  The idea of opening on Thanksgiving evening, remaining open all night, and then all day Friday is hard on employees and shoppers alike. And if retailers want their employees to unionize, I can think of no better way than to yank them away from their families on Thanksgiving and force them to deal with the mayhem unleashed by half crazed shoppers looking for the deal of a lifetime.