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Friday, November 24, 2006

Is it just me...?

I've noticed very nearly every shop in America, particularly in preparation for today's (November 24th) massive sales push, has advertised having 'doorbuster' sales -- and that really bothers me. Not the advertising per se (although you shouldn't get me started), but that expression: doorbuster.

(Explanatory excursus for British readers (and others): the last Thursday in November is set aside in America as a national day of Thanksgiving. The celebration draws its inspiration from the Pilgrim Fathers who did the same in the 17th century to give thanks to God for their sustenance over what had been a hard year; they shared their feast with a number of Native Americans who themselves had been instrumental in saving the Pilgrims from certain doom. Americans celebrate this day, usually in the midst of extended family, with a huge feast (symbolic of our own plenty), and watching American football. American Footballers don't celebrate the day in the same way, instead choosing to sacrifice their traditional 'Turkey Day' celebration for the sake of earning millions of dollars while everyone else sits around and watches them work. On the day following Thanksgiving, which everyone who is anyone in America (i.e. American footballers but not retail workers) has off work, everyone goes out to indulge the true national pastime: shopping -- after all, this is the last final push for profits in the calendar year...that is to say, it is the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. The day has actually come to be widely known as 'Black Friday'. Shops are packed with people unable to spend any more time at home after the previous day's celebration; sales and new merchandise are featured on this Friday. In fact, sales figures from Friday, Saturday and Sunday are paraded prominently in the business news early in the week, broken down by store brand. Bonuses and stock prices are made or broken in these few days. Their importance cannot be underestimated; in the last few years, broadcasters have intoned that sales figures foretell a gloomy holiday season. This year, most of us have made resolutions to do our patriotic duty and go out and spend more - more! - more!! so that we can have a happier season.)

Doorbuster: It smacks of desperation; it even contains a whiff of violence: people are so desperate for these Haggar slacks that they are willing to knock down a door to get at them. They may even cut you off in the parking lot, or knock you out of the way for those first quality Sears Best cotton twill bedsheets. There is nearly the lurking sense of hooliganism that still betokens Hallowe'en here in the UK.

Actually, it sounds a lot more like desperation from the marketers and advertisers. Help! We're running out of ideas and for Pete's sake, you need to keep shopping! We're willing to cross any boundary of decency, violate any measure of taste in our quest.

Oh, I know, it sounds like exaggerated, overheated rhetoric -- but consider this: When I was in D.C. for the AAR conference (yes, I'm back; I had a great time. I'll say more soon.) I saw an advertisement for an outlet mall that touted the fact that one could 'start early' on their holiday shopping. The tag line was -- I am not exaggerating -- 'while the rest of your family was sleeping off their turkey, you can get a head start on the after Thanksgiving sales!' One could do this, you understand, because the entire mall was getting a headstart by opening at midnight after Thanksgiving. Yes, at midnight. Never mind the poor employee who drew the short straw or is at the bottom of the totem pole and has to work all night, after trying to squeeze in some festivities with their family the day before: you can buy a salad shooter at 2 am.

Presumably they thought they could make more sales by being open, what, 24 hours? Seriously, who the devil is going to be buying, well, anything at Bed, Bath and Beyond at 3.30am? Beyond the labour issues, there is alot of energy -- electricity, heat -- used in keeping something open for use overnight; is it really worth it? Who else is asking these sorts of questions?

That's just messed up. I seriously wonder at times like this how I could ever go back. (And, honestly, things like this just make me want to stay more.)

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