Editorial: Less frenzy, more thought

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Early November discounts and Thanksgiving Day store hours should lessen the Black Friday shopping frenzy today. Some consumers have already scooped up their bargains. As these changes suggest, Black Friday is showing a little gray.
And thatís just fine. Itís time to treat holiday shopping less like a race to the finish and more like an exercise in thoughtful giving.
Savvy marketers for national retail chains helped ingrain Black Friday in U.S. consumer culture, so much so that there are websites devoted to the day. According to http://blackfridayandcybermonday.com/, ěBlack Friday historically comes from the retailerís shift to profitability during the holiday season.î The site continues, ěBack in the day when accounting records were kept by hand, red ink indicated financial loss while black ink indicated profit, thus coining the popular fiscal terms of being ëin the red,í (losing money) or ëin the blackí (profitable).î Once Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas shopping season begins in earnest ó hence ěthe busiest shopping day of the year,î with special discounts and heightened excitement.
Unfortunately, excitement can compel people toward recklessness, and more than one person has died in a Black Friday stampede. The move toward Thanksgiving Day sales arises from retailers one-upping each other, but it may also help reduce the pressure on consumers to elbow others out of the way to get bargains available only at the crack of dawn on Black Friday.
They can start by shopping locally on ěSmall Business Saturdayî and continuing to patronize local merchants throughout the Christmas season, as suggested in a column today, ěChristmas 2011: New U.S. tradition.î
Some store clerks protested the intrusion of Black Friday sales into their Thanksgiving holiday, and they have othersí sympathy. Itís one thing for people to arrest criminals, treat the sick and deliver the news on Thanksgiving ó not to mention play professional football ó and another to be called from the family table to operate a cash register. But donít expect retailers to give up selling time for the sake of togetherness. Theyíre adjusting to a shifting economy.
So are shoppers. As programs like ěExtreme Couponingî show, some people will go to any lengths for the thrill of a bargain. But the best thrill for many consumers these days is staying ěin the blackî themselves. The Christmas season is a time for giving, yes, but not for trampling on our fellow man to get a deal on a flat-screen TV. Let the shopping begin but, please, be mindful of fellow shoppers, store clerks and local merchants ó and, most of all, the reason we celebrate Christmas to begin with.