Sunday, November 26, 2006


Ils sont fous, ces Romains[1]

It's called "Black Friday" — oddly, by the very people who profit from it. No one is under any illusion about the sensibility of pouring into the shopping malls and department stores in human torrents, in search of "bargains". The Friday after Thanksgiving, in the United States, is the "official" start of the Christmas shopping season, and was for many years the busiest shopping day of the year (it has recently been surpassed by the last Saturday before Christmas). One takes one's life into one's hands by venturing out on that day. Well, if not one's life, at least one's sanity.

And in the last few years, in an effort to get a jump on things, stores have taken to opening the night before, bringing tryptophan-sodden zombies[2] to the malls, hoping against hope that they might score their bargains in relative calm. As you might imagine, though, this was a poorly kept secret, and the number of early shoppers in the local Macy's made the shoe section alone look like the battlefield in "Braveheart".

And so it was that with traffic and parking at our regional mega-outlet-mall, Woodbury Common, already maxed out last weekend, the place planned its opening this year, as last, at midnight after the Thanksgiving festivities (I suppose that way they could say that they did not actually open on Thanksgiving itself). "Police," says the Hudson Valley Times Herald-Record, "are untroubled." Indeed, their plan, built from experience, was to close the Thruway exit that goes directly to the mall and send the drivers two exits west on route 17, then route them back onto 17 east to the mall. In case that seems bizarre, take mind of what that's meant to do: it will allow them to clear the New York State Thruway toll plaza and send the traffic in an almost-ten-mile loop to allow the traffic jam to spread out on route 17 instead of jamming the toll plaza.

And, sure enough, there "by the permission of heaven, hell broke loose."[3] Again according to the Times Herald-Record, the mall's parking lot was full by 12:30, and by 1:00 the Thruway was jammed for "miles", despite the rerouting.

Sheep. We're all sheep. Tell people there's "a big sale", and they'll trot out at midnight, after Grandma and Uncle Fred have gone, refueled by sugar and caffeine, and sit in five miles of jammed traffic in the hope of buying a few gifts for a few dollars less than last week. Is it really worth the time and trouble?


[1] The title's a catch phrase from the fabulous comic-book series Asterix. If you're not familiar with Asterix, by all means, go find it in your favourite language tout de suite!

[2] Yes, yes, I know the tryptophan thing is a myth.

[3] That's an inscription on a stone commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666.

1 comment:

Selkie said...

Since I have a former career in retail, all I can think of are those poor employess who are forced to truncate or cancel their family plans so they can go to work at midnight. It's one of the major reasons I don't work in that field any longer.

As long as the consumers come, this trend will continue to get more and more out of hand. It's simply amazing to me just how many people believe they're going to be able to get a price that day that would be unavailable the other 364 days of the year!

May lightning strike me dead if I *ever* go Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving weekend!