Black Friday Returns With A Vengeance

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, stores demonstrate that claims of human evolution may be greatly overstated. From gunshots to smashed doors to stampedes to riots, shopping was again reduced to the lowest common denominator of humanity. The display of conspicuous (and chaotic) consumption is taking place at Walmarts as workers picket for fair wage and treatment outside.

We often discuss the liability issues around these sales in class. As part of the holiday gift-giving to personal injury lawyers, tort and criminal cases sprung up across the country with reports of injuries and attacks. Stores can be liable in such cases, which have resulted in actual fatalities. One of the leading authorities in the area of promotional liability is the Weirum v. RKO decision, holding a radio station liable for injuries caused to a third party when teenagers drove recklessly to find The Real Don Steele in his marked van. The court held that the reckless driving was a foreseeable response of teenagers to the promise of free concert tickets.

What is interesting is the the chaos and televised assaults are viewed as good for marketing — it actually draws more people into stores. The rest of us are left watching and wondering about the future of our species.

34 thoughts on “Black Friday Returns With A Vengeance”

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  3. @Shano: Some people do wait; after-christmas sales are very well attended, and those prices you talk about do move the leftover merchandise. The same thing goes for new cars, btw, as the model year closes and the next year models are on the lot. My very first new car (in my early twenties) was bought this way, at what I thought was a pretty steep discount.

    On the other hand it IS leftover merchandise, the plums have been picked, the selection is reduced. And for people with kids, or pride, or money, or religion, or some combination of those conditions, they can indulge in the fantasy that Christmas Day is Christmas Day, a special day unlike any other. For them any other day feels emotionally charged; especially if the change of day was motivated by financial concerns (as opposed to say, waiting for a veteran to arrive home on the 27th, or a child to be released from the hospital).

    It isn’t that the shoppers are not “smart,” they understand the pricing cycle as well as you do. The issue is that for most people the event is an emotional one. It isn’t about the money, or the costs of the gifts, it is about the feeling of expressing mutual love and joy on the designated day with the rest of their community, co-workers, business associates, neighbors and friends and family.

    Failing to do that transforms “christmas” into just another private birthday or anniversary, it isn’t as emotionally special. And that loss of emotional significance isn’t worth the savings one might score by waiting.

  4. The after Xmas sales have better prices on everything they are waiting in line to buy. I dont know why people do not just plan big purchases like TVs for sometime other than holidays.

    Then you can spend time with your family, cook something for people or make something- buy from local craft people some small sweet presents. My favorite presents are always handmade foods, from jams to smoked trout.
    They have some well trained consumers here, but not smart shoppers. It is easier to bargain a price in a buyers market instead of competing with hundreds of other buyers.

  5. Total excerpt on Walmart “associates”, from email:

    “I did not spend Thanksgiving evening with my wife and my five children. I spent it, instead, handing out turkey sandwiches to workers in WalMart. And showing my support for one brave soul who walked off the job in protest against exploitation.

    WalMart “associates” make an average of just more than $10 an hour. That means that if they manage to get a full 40 hours a week – and many don’t – they get paid $1,700 a month, before taxes. Somehow, that is supposed to pay for their food, shelter, clothing and medical care, and that of their children. Quite a trick.

    In state after state, the largest group of Medicaid recipients is WalMart employees. I’m sure that the same thing is true of food stamp recipients. Each WalMart “associate” costs the taxpayers an average of more than $1,000 in public assistance.

    How underpaid are WalMart employees? This underpaid: if every one of them got a 30% raise, WalMart would still be profitable.

    WalMart employees in the United States are not unionized. WalMart has used every trick in the book to prevent its employees from organizing. In 2005, in Canada, WalMart closed a store that had voted to go union. Recently, in Orlando, WalMart fired an employee who had just talked about unionizing. When he came back into the store, many days afterward, to say hello to his former colleagues, they handcuffed him.

    It’s time to do something about this.

    So on Thanksgiving, knowing that WalMart employees were missing dinner with their families, we walked into the local WalMart and handed out dinner to them. We gave them a paper bag that had three things in it: (a) a turkey sandwich, (b) a bag of chips, and (c) a letter explaining their right to organize.

    There were two points to this. One was to inform the workers of their rights. And the other was to demonstrate to them, vividly, that they are not alone.

    The WalMart manager had the police escort us out of the building. For handing out sandwiches. And for showing WalMart employees that they are not alone.

    One brave “associate,” who had had enough of this mistreatment, walked out with us. Which is her right, under the law, to protest WalMart’s unfair labor practices. In fact, a while back, 200 employees walked out of a WalMart store, all at the same time. That really shook up the bosses.

    By the way, she made sure that she finished serving her customer before she left. She’s that kind of person. WalMart actually could use a few more like her.

    I showed my support. I gave her a hug.

    And so it begins. WalMart accounts for more than ten percent of all of the retail sales in the United States. It is the largest private employer in the world, with more than two million employees. And even though those employees comprise barely ten percent of its cost of doing business, WalMart exploits them mercilessly. Now WalMart employees are starting to organize, starting to fight back.

    Who will win? I don’t know. But I do know whose side I’m on. And I know that I’m not alone.


    Rep. Alan Grayson

    PS From Idealist707,
    Walmart associates are allowed to be married, are not forced to sleep in barracks, but their situation reminds much of Chinese slave labor.

  6. OMG I can hardly believe it. But I have a “Black Friday” joke to tell.

    My friend was calling up a friend of his yesterday; I was there working on his computer. He casually mentioned to her that “all those idiots are out shopping today,” and whatever she said in response, he blushed and said, “Oh well you’re going to get something you need for your daughter…” and I cracked up and couldn’t stop laughing. Then I told him this joke:

    A guy was working in the produce section of the grocery store and a customer came up to him and asked him to cut a head of lettuce in half for him, because he only wanted to buy half a head of lettuce. The worker said they couldn’t do that. The customer remonstrated and finally asked to speak with the manager. The produce guy went to get the manager but didn’t realize the customer had followed him. When he saw the manager he said, “Hey boss, some idiot wants to buy half a head of lettuce…” and then he spied the customer standing there, so he continued without losing a beat, “but the problem is solved because this fine gentleman here has agreed to buy the other half.” So he cut the lettuce in half and re-labeled it for the customer, who left. The boss turned to him and said, “You know, I like your style; I think you’re very good at your job. I’m going to make you the manager of the new store out in Dornville.” The produce guy said, “DORNVILLE, I don’t want to go out there; all they have there is prostitutes and football players!” The manager said, “My WIFE is from Dornville!” The produce guy asked sweetly, “really? What position does she play?” 😀

  7. @feemeister: It does not do your argument any good if you use unrealistic exaggerations to make a point, because everybody knows the exaggeration is unrealistic so you just sound like an ideologue talking nonsense.

    My credit card interest is about 8% annually. For real, I have done the arithmetic to verify it. If I buy a $7 item, it would cost me $7.56 if I left it unpaid for a year. Not $60. If I paid just 56c a year on it and never a penny toward principle, I would have to pay interest for 94 years before I got to $60.

    Nobody pays 10 times as much by buying something with a credit card. You just sound like you have no idea what you are talking about. Your life might be improved by understanding some basic arithmetic and percentages.

    As far as “armloads” of wedding dresses; what they are doing is probably planning to sell them for more than they paid on eBay. As you talk about Internet shopping, I am surprised this did not occur to you. It is a booming home business model; and I know several people dabbling in it, and two that have made it a full time business (one in musical instruments, the other in collectible items of all kinds).

    Basically, the full timers know their products and have studied what they sell for on eBay, so they find them being sold cheap by stores closing out inventory, at estate sales, at auction, in pawn shops, even in garage sales, buy them up and resell them on eBay over time. All it takes is a digital camera and typing skills, and the skill of recognizing a bargain for a certain type of product.

    I suspect those armloads of wedding dresses are destined for an online auction site.

  8. Woosty, what the HECK was that? I never even imagined there was anything like that in the world (even of fiction)? What are these people doing with ARMLOADS of wedding dresses? Sheeeeesh!

    To MY way of thinking, money mangement is done much more efficiently when done with cash. You see, you do not overspend with cash. You don’t buy what you can’t afford. While there may be things it would be lovely to have which you can get with a credit card, my feeling is it would be better to buy it only if you have the $7 cash to buy it with, than not have any money, use a card, and wind up paying $60 buying it over time from banksters.

    I also do not see the point in going out and spending money (either cash or credit cards at ten times the going rate of the item) for all these people. Sure presents are nice. But they are NOT necessary, and certainly not in this economy (it may not be effecting everyone, but it is severely effecting me). I think Evelyn’s idea is wonderful. And doing that, you can give what you can afford, not go into debt, and help people who need it into the bargain, instead of giving presents to people who probably don’t really need anything.

    And I pay much less and shop in my own home. I find much better buys on the internet (generally) than in stores. And there are places you can get free shipping. It really PAYS to learn to shop around on the web! (And it’s great to be able to read the reviews on the items, too, before you decide which to get.

  9. I worked many years in retail during high school and college. Once I got my 9-5 job I have kept away from retail and malls from one week before turkey day to one month after New Years. I only shop at big box retail if I simply cannot find what I need at a local small businesses or online. If I do give something to someone, it’s hand made by me or some local artisan.

    Once my son reached the age of 16, he no longer got “things” from me for holidays, he got to choose which charity would receive a donation in his name. That was the most freeing thing in the world. We spent hours together discussing the merits of different charity organizations and not only has it brought us closer, but it helps others who have even less than we do.

    It’s Small Business Saturday, so go out and support them!

  10. Here comes Scrooge. Humbug!

    “Hope springs eternal”.

    Meanwhile their older sister is divorced, has two kids, pop’s outa work with no pay to attach, no job in sight—but hope is even running in lil’ sis.
    Still, it is lovely to see.

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