The mighty American marketing machine known as Christmas put on a brave front this weekend. Stores across the country opened up earlier than ever – some as early as 2:00 a.m. on Friday morning – and shoppers responded. Some consumers gave up their Thanksgiving Thursday altogether by using that day to stake their position on a sidewalk outside Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, or Sears. The rewards were high – those who were first in the store on Black Friday had the best shot at buying at deep, deep discounts. Flat screen HDTVs, which were otherwise priced at $1,000 minimum, were on sale for $300, but only on Black Friday and only to the earliest few into the store.
It’s a sign of the desperation of American retailers that they even have to market something called “Black Friday.” This used to be an obscure term used by retailers to identify the day after Thanksgiving, when shoppers came to the malls in droves to begin their Christmas shopping, thus guaranteeing retailers would be “in the black” (profitable) for the rest of the year. Most Americans don’t even know this, and are right to think there is something sinister about Black Friday, coming so soon as it does after another great American marketing campaign – Halloween. For every person shopping on Black Friday, two or three consumers stayed home, intimidated by the crowds, or disgusted with the commercial boosterism that has now overwhelmed Christmas. How, they wonder, did things get so out of hand?
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