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Black Friday Sends Retailers Down A Black Hole

The malls are shimmering in decorations, grocery shoppers are pawing through the frozen turkeys and the B Team is subbing for the cable news anchors. It must be time for a holiday.

I wish all my fellow Americans a relaxing, bloat-free turkey day.

If you work in retail, enjoy Thanksgiving Day (if you have it off...) because you'll be heading back to work at 2 a.m. or some other ridiculous hour of the morning to work the Black Friday sales. If you watch TV, you've seen the ads.

I'm not sure how it started, but this "opening in the middle of the night" stuff has turned into a modern-day retail arms race. I can remember when opening at 7 a.m. on Black Friday was considered early. Now the stores open at 12:01 a.m. or 2 a.m., for some unknown reason.

A few years from now, the marketing team at a major retailer is going to have an idea. It will approach the CEO, who will give his or her blessing. Then the company will announce that the company's stores won't close AT ALL during Thanksgiving week. That's right, 24/7 shopping, even on Thanksgiving Day! The retailer's competitors will follow suit, and before we know it all major stores will be open 24/7 for Christmas shopping starting in early September.

That's where this retail arms race is heading folks, without any detente negotiations in sight. I already feel sorry for the retail employees who will be working these caffeine-driven schedules.

Of course, companies wouldn't continue the Black Friday tradition if there weren't any early bird shoppers showing up. When I see TV news stories about shoppers setting up tents or standing in line outside a Walmart all night in freezing weather, I think to myself, who are these people and what drives them to do this? I envision them cleaning their tents a week ahead of time, planning food supplies and trying to remember where they put their sleeping bags after last year's Black Friday shopping event. I'll confess that I don't understand it. I like a good sale as much as the next person, but I'm not willing to wear five pairs of socks and lose feeling in my feet for it. The only thing that's going to get me out of bed at 3 a.m. on a cold night is a crying infant or a fire.

The Black Friday "shop-at-3 a.m." tradition is getting even more silly in light of Cyber Monday, when the same retailers could very well be offering the same deals online. Thanks to modern technology, we can shop from the comforts of our home computers -- and with free shipping if we pay attention. It's a good option, since Black Friday shopping is turning into a dangerous contact sport where shoppers and retail employees have gotten injured, or even killed.

Please retailers, enough already. You have the power to end this silly arms race. Let's have a return to sanity where you open on Black Friday at 7 or (gasp!) 8 o'clock in the morning. Shoppers can, and will, adapt. In fact, the people dragged along on these nocturnal Bataan shopping marches may feel a secret sense of relief that they don't need to bring a tent this time. Tradition is nice, but not all traditions are worth keeping.


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