Black Friday Etiquette

If you get up early to go Christmas shopping today, you can save a ton of money. Of course, if you roll over and say, ‘Screw shopping this year,’
you can save even more.” ~ Maxine

Maxine may be on to something. Black Friday is a day that has become infamous in the annals of consumer shopping, so maybe it’s better if everyone just turned off their alarm clocks, went back to sleep and skipped the madness.

This year, with retailers going completely around the bend and aggressively encouraging such nuttiness to begin on Thanksgiving Day of all things, the graphic above is probably representative of the reality of how consumers must now prepare themselves for this exercise in retail combat. But, it shouldn’t be that way.

For decades, Black Friday has been the day that officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season. But the term has a dire meaning, stemming from the deep bargains offered by stores that attract hoards of shoppers and resulting in a suspension of reason and civility.

The day has become increasingly ominous in recent years, with heartbreaking reports of crime, injuries and even deaths associated with shopping aggressiveness. The time is overdue to take a close look at exactly what value consumers are receiving from this mayhem at the expense of showing respect and kindness toward each other. Ironic, isn’t it, that this horrific behavior comes at the start of the season that has exemplified goodwill toward humankind?

Moreover, are retailers’ bottom lines really swelling by all this slashing of prices, hiring of additional staff and damage to merchandise, property and reputations? Are municipalities profiting by adding personnel to police the crowds and clean up the messes in the aftermath of Black Friday, which now threatens to become Black Weekend?

I find this disheartening because I can recall a time when window shopping and visiting beautifully decorated and festive stores was a highlight of the holiday season. But, that was in an era when there was still a sense of wonder about the holidays, before Christmas decorations began appearing in stores right after Columbus Day, and before the market was flooded with an overwhelming array of products designed to become obsolete or break in the blink of an eye! To add insult to injury, Black Friday disrupts the revered holiday of Thanksgiving, cutting short what should be a leisurely break from the rat race of life to reconnect with and appreciate family and friends. A sign of the times is the sentiment that’s been circulating on social media for awhile, i.e., that Black Friday is when people trample each other to get to sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have!

Personally, I’d rather spend Thanksgiving weekend with my family and friends instead of shopping for them. And, although I love a bargain, it’s not important enough that I would subject myself to the discomforts and indignities of Black Friday. (Although I confess to a shameful incident long ago in which I battled an onslaught of fellow moms — and a few dads — with sharp elbows, clever misdirection and some very speedy cross trainers to obtain a Cabbage Patch Doll for my then little daughter!)

So before you head out the door after dessert on Thursday, it’s important to remember that there are many Black Friday deals online. It’s safer, healthier, more comfortable and much more civilized on this day — to quote the vintage ad slogan of the Yellow Pages — to “let your fingers do the walking,” only now over the keyboard rather than through the telephone directory. And many Internet offers extend beyond the Thanksgiving weekend. In my view, this is one of those times that the online route beats the in-person experience.

But, If you’re still determined to spend your Thanksgiving holiday and the day after in shopper hell, here are some suggestions, reminders and tips to help you to hang on to your sanity and civility:

  1. Leave children at home. Crazy crowds and stores straining at the seams are no place for children. It’s hard enough to keep track of kids under normal circumstances, but Black Friday is a time to risk your own neck, not theirs.
  2. Get enough rest. Before you step into the fray at the crack of dawn, get a good night’s rest. And don’t take on anything else major, like hosting Thanksgiving. Know your limitations.
  3. Avoid alcohol. You want a clear head, so don’t head out after a night of drinking or following a champagne brunch. Approach this shopping marathon as you would any other type of marathon – in tip top shape.
  4. Eat before you go. And pack a snack to keep up your energy and good mood (don’t depend on every store providing snacks, or that there will be any left when you arrive!).
  5. Don’t jump the line. Or save a place for family members or friends. Disputes over places in line are not only rude but can cause delays and often trigger outbreaks of violence.
  6. Be courteous, thoughtful and empathetic. Showing consideration toward other shoppers and store and municipal personnel can go a long way in keeping the peace. Remember that other shoppers are there for bargains just like you are, and that police, store security personnel, parking attendants and clerks are probably a bit tense. People are more disposed to helping you if you show them kindness, understanding and respect.

If you go I hope you find terrific bargains. More importantly, I hope you have an enjoyable time and come home in a triumphant and buoyant state of mind. But, if that’s hoping for too much, at least remember your manners, and keep a cool head and sense of humor. Above all, be safe and remember that there is life after Black Friday.

Until next time,


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