A Stones Throw 11-29-12


I know what you were doing last week.

I know, because I wasn’t doing it.

Each year ‘ShopperTrak.com’ tracks the number of people who shop during ‘Black Friday’. Of course, this year ‘Black Friday’ started on Thursday. Counting both early ‘Black Friday’ shoppers as well as regular ‘Black Friday’ shoppers, and of course the less ambitious Internet shoppers, ‘ShopperTrack’ reported a total of 307.67 million Americans put their dollars on the line as they shopped till they dropped.

That is how I know what you were doing last week. With a total population approaching 312 million people, based on the ‘ShopperTrak’ report, only about four million people in the entire country did not shop on ‘Black Friday’.

Add to this, ‘CNN Money’ (which only recognizes 247 million shoppers) estimates each shopper spent an average of $423 on ‘Black Friday’ – or, using ‘ShopperTrak numbers’ – over $130 billion.

I missed the whole experience. I chose instead to stay home and watch football from noon to midnight Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Jade also chose to ignore ‘Black Friday’. (She also chose to ignore me and football.)

Even though I skipped the opportunity to be pushed and shoved and cursed – all in the name of Christmas – I do have several observations.

I teach my students that figures don’t lie, but liars figure. This has to be the explanation for the ridiculous shopping numbers being bandied about by the various “gate keepers.” To put things in perspective, if Patriot is a reflection of the American shopping public, only two people out of 200 did not shop the stores or online during ‘Black Friday’.

And, Jade and I were those two people.

I hope everyone else in Patriot enjoyed the experience.

It appears to me that the number of people who participated in ‘Black Friday’ was determined by estimating the number of people who walked through each door or each website. This means that a person who visited 10 different stores and then came home and visited 10 different websites was mysteriously transformed into 20 shoppers.

If this is true, and to me it has to be to get these inflated numbers, the numbers are meaningless.

I also found it interesting that several of the “big box” stores claimed sales were down from last year. While this is possible within the confines of the numbers, it would seem that with a record turnout of shoppers and a significant increase of spending per shopper, sales would be better than last year – not worse.

Perhaps the problem is that shoppers were there to look – not spend. But, if this were the case, why would people start lining up and camping out hours, even days, before stores opened with their ‘Black Friday’ specials?

When people who were waiting in line were interviewed by television reporters, there were two prevailing thoughts. First, many said ‘Black Friday’ shopping has become a family tradition – much like Thanksgiving Dinner itself. Of course, several commented that the new tradition has had to replace the old tradition. Thanksgiving dinner is out – now it is more like Thanksgiving breakfast.

Have to get in line. Stores open in eight hours.

The other comments usually involved wanting to buy that 43-inch television or that Blu Ray player. Even better, maybe there would be specials on iPads, ipods, or iphones.

Apparently these shoppers don’t read the same consumer reports that I do. Most consumer experts seem to claim the worst time to buy electronics for the holidays is during ‘Black Friday’. These experts claim the closer to Christmas you get, the lower the price will be. And, if you can wait until after Christmas, the price gets even better.

Still, tens of thousands (sorry, I forgot – tens of millions) of people line up and wait for hours to get one of those special deals.

After all, it is only money.

Speaking of which, I was looking in the newspaper (not a Switzerland County newspaper) the other day. While checking out the want ads I found one that made me realize how far our economy has come since we hit the bottom of our recent recession.

The add read: “Driver – $0.03 enhanced quarterly bonus. Get paid for any portion you qualify for.”

Where do I sign up? Face it – where else can you receive an enhanced quarterly bonus? And, a whole three cents.

Even better, if you only work one month during the quarter you can still get a bonus. A one cent bonus – but still a bonus.

I wonder how many of those who waited hours in order to be pushed, shoved, and abused during ‘Black Friday’ might have waited if they knew there were jobs available that paid an enhanced quarterly bonus?

Probably not many.

– Mike Cooney