25
Nov
11

Black Friday takes over the intertubes

Learn something new every year — I sure didn’t expect two-thirds of my readership to be out shopping this morning.  But here we are, and my hit count is down by nearly seven-tenths from where it’d usually be on a Friday.  Why you people aren’t watching LSU-Arkansas and clattering away on your laptops like reasonable individuals is beyond me, but de gustibus non disputandum est.

In any case, this gives me a hook for a cheap blog post: I submit that people actually really enjoy Black Friday.

Now, it’s obvious why I enjoy Black Friday (see “college football”, above).  But even surly misanthropes south of the forty-ninth seem to be having a pretty good time.  Witness Marko indulging his written imagination (excerpted):

Tapping into radio traffic of the 304th Wal*Mart Loss Prevention Regiment, currently heavily engaged at Store #374:

“…combat engineers have welded a barrier out of shelving and garden rakes between Electronics and Toys…get some belt-feds up there as soon as you can…”

“…falling back to the service desk, requesting limited tactical nuclear release OH GOD THEY’RE EATING EACH OTHER IN HOUSEWARES…”

[…]“…they’ve broken through at Sporting Goods! Get the reserve battalion in there!”

“…Jackson’s gone, man…took a Blu-Ray player to the neck, severed his aorta…”

(Read The Whole Thing) or Tam letting her snark run around off-leash, eating bystanders and scaring babies:

Desperate to apply jumper cables to the nipples of our moribund economy, the media has been giving the annual retail orgy known as “Black Friday” an inordinate amount of hype.

[…]

I don’t care if they are handing out dollar bills in the back of Best Buy in great big Ben Bernanke-sized sacks, you couldn’t print enough of them to induce me to set foot into the middle of that seething mass of aberrant humanity.

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there.  Well, maybe not if you’re Helicopter Ben.

Still, what about the intrepid legions of shoppers forming up to assault the local box farm at zero-dark-thirty?  Tyler Cowen argues that they’re doing it because — get this — they like it:

The alternative to waiting in line and fighting the crush is to go shopping some other day, hardly a terrible fate. […]

In fact it seems that early December has in general the cheapest prices of the year, not Black Friday.

Dare I suggest that some people like waiting in those lines with their thermos cups and stale bagels.  You could try to argue they are “forced to do so,” to get the bargains, but in a reasonably competitive world  each outlet will (roughly) try to maximize the consumer surplus from visiting the store, including the experience of waiting in line.

[…]

Although my efficiency prognosis is more optimistic than Frank’s, my underlying view of human nature — or perhaps economic growth — may be worse.  Is that really what people want to be out there doing?  I saw the Best Buy line last night and those people looked pretty normal.  That’s scarier than postulating a bunch of negative-sum games.

(Emphasis added.)

Karl Smith backs him up.  He postulates a scenario where “his” store stays closed on Black Friday, giving its employees the opportunity fully to enjoy Thanksgiving and giving bargain-hunting shoppers a chance to sleep in the next day:

If this strategy fails then it would need to be because people prefer standing in line on Black Friday morning to finding the exact same sales at my store on Saturday.

Indeed, I suspect this is the case and the Holiday and shared experience that is Black Friday brings enjoyment to Americans greatly in excess of the costs of the experience.

Now, Smith’s a pretty sharp guy, but it stretches credulity to suggest that no-one in the American retail sector has ever thought of this plan before.

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