You can’t sit in front of the tv with a nice cup of tea and a lapful of knitting without a reminder that this Friday — the day after U.S. Thanksgiving — Americans are encouraged to drive to shopping centers and malls, kick in their doors, and scramble over their neighbors and store employees for great deals on everything they probably don’t need.
They’re called “doorbuster sales” and typically occur on Black Friday, the day after we’ve given thanks for family and friends around tables groaning with the weight of the turkey, squash, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pies, and a host of other traditional dishes. I’m in my late 40s, and I remember Thanksgiving Thursday being one of the holidays when nothing was open. I mean nothing. It was always eerie driving back from my grandparents’ house and seeing our downtown transformed into a ghost town. No lights on, no gas stations open, even McDonalds was closed. And it wasn’t long ago that the day after Thanksgiving marked the official start of the holiday season in a more gentle fashion than we see these days. The stores would open around 8 a.m., maybe a couple hours earlier than normal. The Christmas decorations would be up for the first time, and the holiday music playing in the background felt appropriate. The stores were brisk with business, but not mobbed.
It’s not so today. I was watching tv the other night and saw that some of the big U.S. retailers are treating Thanksgiving Day as the new Black Friday. Almost every major retailer will be open on Thursday and they’re all pushing sales. On top of this, the Black Friday sales, which used to start at 8 a.m., have started earlier and earlier each year … 6 a.m. … 5 a.m. … 3 a.m. Now some of these stores aren’t even bothering to close once they open on Thanksgiving.
Frankly, it disgusts me.
Personally I can think of nothing more distasteful than shopping with crowds of people at a department store. I already get stressed out trying to park in the parking lot at some of these places on a Tuesday a.m. (fewest shoppers according to my non-scientific observations), and when I consider I might get a karate chop to the head should I not move fast enough or be in the way of someone who wants a $25 microwave, the appeal is even less so. But hey, some people like to shop and Black Friday is something they look forward to all year, so we can agree to disagree.
But what really bugs me is that come Friday — heck, maybe even tomorrow! — we’re going to be hearing “shocking” news reports about security guards being trampled, fights breaking out between shoppers, injuries and even deaths because of lax crowd control. And what do retailers do to discourage these kinds of incidents? Very little. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t yet been sued for inciting violence by producing print and television ads touting “doorbuster” sales. What kind of image goes through your mind when you hear the word “doorbuster”? I’ll bet it has something to do with pushing, kicking and shoving, some glass breaking, and maybe if you’re hyper-imaginative, you see people being trampled upon as the door busts open.
I’ll end my rant by pointing out the irony that Toys ‘R’ Us has doorbuster sales. So much for teaching our children not to hit others to get what they want.