Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, After-Christmas Sales: All Marketing Coups

I’ve never shopped Black Friday sales. For more than a decade, I prepared a Thanksgiving meal, packed it to-go, drove 2 ½ hours across a turnpike, heated everything, served it all, cleaned my mom’s kitchen, packed leftovers for family members, and drove another 2 ½ hours to sleep in my own bed. The day after Thanksgiving was my day to give thanks for peace, quiet, rest, and leftovers.

I also never felt motivated to go forth into crowds competing for two televisions on sale. I knew myself to be susceptible to impulses so I stayed home. I also learned to expect great sales for a wide array of merchandise year-round in every city and most villages. From the global marketplace, I learned that anyone anywhere can buy local, domestic, and international, especially if using the Internet.

So many choices, so much competition online appealed to me so I logged on before and after work for Cyber Monday—except now, I don't need to wait for one particular day. Now, I can choose between Cyber Black Fridays and Black Friday previews and Black Friday on Thursday or Wednesday and well into December. So now I shop when I need to shop. Lately that’s September and October so I can spread the cost and make Christmas a guilt-free festival.

But there are even better reasons not to fall for Black Friday or Cyber Mondays or after-Christmas sales. They are as manipulative as any other bait to fish for consumers.

First, not all Black Friday sale items are much of a sale. According to NerdWallet, an online site about money matters, one Black Friday deal offered a KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand mixer for $199, about $30 under the regular price at most stores. Target beat that price 20 days earlier, offering the same mixer on November 8, 2013 for $183.99. If the consumer had bought earlier from Target, his savings would have been $46 instead of $30.

In addition, caveat emptor--Let the buyer beware! Buyers should not assume that everything in a Dollar General or Wal-Mart or Costco is available at the lowest price anywhere.  Some items are great buys, but many are priced exactly the same or higher than at other stores. Smartphone apps are marvelous inventions, and one of them will let you know if the price you’re about to pay is the best price.

If this is standard marketing procedure, it stands to reason that some Black Friday deals are not bargains after all. NerdWallet also reports that “many items advertised on Black Friday [sold] for prices that consumers could have obtained … as far back as last year." Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal declares: “Attention Black Friday shoppers: You’re probably wasting your time," adding that most items advertised for Black Friday are available for the sale price or even less at other times throughout the year, including the holiday shopping season post-Black Friday.

Furthermore, some workers will have a few more hours to indulge in turkey, dressing, family quarrels, and football. As sellers attempt to one-up each other, sales begin earlier and earlier so those workers have no holiday, one declared in honor of our roots--although the true story of our roots little resembles the one taught to school children featuring turkeys, Pilgrims, and Native Americans.

If sellers make the holiday null and void by opening their doors earlier and earlier, then no proclamation will save it. Soon no one will expect any store to be closed on Thanksgiving. Restaurants will follow.  They will recognize the value in weary shoppers in need of sustenance.  Then homemakers, Domestic Gods and Goddesses, and weary grandparents will realize that the Roast Beast need not be the day’s labor in homes across the land when professionals can slather gravy and cranberry sauce for us all. Thanksgiving might transition into just another day, observed by some and barely noticed by others.

But, perhaps most important, those workers upon whom we depend for our delight, those football players near and far, concussed and clear-headed, will have lost a key factor in their contracts: extra-duty pay for playing on holidays. America will never stand for it! We want our football, endless, endless football, sometimes better than any tryptophan-ed turkey in lulling us into insensibility, sometimes better than the best cardio workout.

So dear shoppers and couch-athletes, resist the call of one-day sales such as Black Friday! Stay home. Feast and indulge. We’ll all be better for it.