Stop the War on Black Friday

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

Related Post Roulette

98 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    The collapse of Capitalism is indeed nigh.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to greginak says:

      Borrowing from CK’s link to Noam Chomsky:

      Marx studied an abstract system that has some of the central features of really-existing capitalism, but not others, including the crucial state role in development and in sustaining predatory institutions. Like much of the financial sector, which in the US depends for most of its profits on the implicit government insurance program, according to a recent IMF study — over $80 billion, a year according to the business press.

      Large-scale state intervention has been a leading feature of the developed societies from England to the US to Europe and to Japan and its former colonies, up to the present moment. The technology that we are now using, to take one example. Many mechanisms have been developed that might preserve existing forms of state capitalism.

      The existing system may well destroy itself for different reasons, which Marx also discussed. We are now heading, eyes open, towards an environmental catastrophe that might end the human experiment just as it is wiping out species at a rate not seen since 65 million years ago when a huge asteroid hit the earth — and now we are the asteroid.


    • Kolohe in reply to greginak says:

      Needs another Obama bailout.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    My own anecdotal evidence suggests that more people were out shopping on Saturday than Friday. Things were pretty quite in SF on Friday. Downtown was packed yesterday though.

    There seem to be two conflicting liberal narratives on Black Friday:

    1. Shopping on Black Friday is wrong because you are requiring people (normally poor to working-class) to work long hours and be away from their families. This is especially true now because Black Friday seems to start on Wednesday and Thursday. This is also part because of the left’s complicated relationship with consumerism. We discussed this in Roland Dodd’s thread about whether the left needs Christianity. The farther left and right have always had complicated and hostile relationships with consumer goods and luxuries. The right because they see consumerism as destroying traditional hierarchies and the left because they think of consumerism as a form of allegory of the cave, a way of keeping people down.

    2. Making fun of Black Friday shoppers is wrong because it is poor-shaming. There does seem to be research out there showing that most Black Friday shoppers are not upper class or upper-middle class but people on tight budgets and often single parents. Black Friday is when they can afford to shop:

    “The exact demography of shoppers on Thanksgiving and Black Friday isn’t clear, with the former being too new a trend to track, and it seems to have been changing over recent years, with a higher percentage of millennials taking part of late, but studies have shown the shoppers are more likely to be non-white, or single mothers. There’s no denying the demographics that seem to show up again in the type of videos we all find so hilarious, however.”

    I don’t think there is a way to square the circle on this stuff. But people always want to have their cake and it eat it to.Report

    • I don’t understand how these narratives are inconsistent. Surely you can think it’s less than ideal to shop in a way that requires people to spend time away from their families, AND that it’s wrong to make fun of people because of their relative poverty?

      Put another way: Why are we assuming that the only way to oppose Black Friday is to make fun of Black Friday shoppers?Report

      • Murali in reply to Robert Greer says:

        Its not merely a making fun of. Simply criticising black Friday shopping or for that matter consumerism can be read as an attack on the values of the proletariat. The great irony of our current era is that it is only the bourgeois and the neo-aristocracy who have the luxury of being anti-consumerist. Anti-consumerist concerns are further removed from the concerns of the working class, who tend more to be concerned with the satisfaction of more immediate needs and for whom the consumption of material goods alleviates the ennui of their low level jobs. Anti consumerism or at the very least anti-black-Friday-ism can turn out to be exhibiting an enormous blindness to one’s own privilege.Report

    • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      In this case both the liberal narrative are weak. People work; sometimes at crappy jobs with meh hours. I want those people to have robust protections and as good pay as is reasonable, but some jobs just require bad hours.

      I’m pretty sure black friday shopping in poor neighborhoods have more poor shoppers and in middle class neighborhoods more middle class people. I don’t think BF is a class thing. I’ve known to many solidly middle class people who shop hard and fast for the thrill of the kill ( bargain). If the silly videos show certain things, then that is more about the videos and who gets on camera then anything else.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to greginak says:

        Aren’t Big Box stores the kings of Black Friday? Aren’t they mostly in “Big Box commercial” neighborhoods rather than poor or middle class ones?

        On weak liberal narratives, though, I see a weakness in the rhetoric rather than a weakness in the position. After all, while “some jobs require bad hours” is certainly true, the evil of Black Friday is that there’s no particular reason other than inertia to justify the particular bad hours being demanded.

        I think there’s a lot of space to talk about the way in which large corporations are making demands upon their employees in ways that attack the notion of their employer/employee relationships being market-efficient exchanges of wages for labor.

        Because at that level of business, the agreement of employment* is dictated by the employer and either accepted or rejected by the employee. It’s perfectly expected for the employer to say something like “You will work on Thanksgiving if you want to keep this job” and have that be accepted by the employee.

        On the other hand, if an hourly employee of a big-box store said something like “You will let me have thanksgiving off if you want me to keep working here”, that would be seen as a culturally unreasonable demand. The employee would likely be let go–not because the thanksgiving-day holiday is a deal breaker in the wage-labor exchange–but because the employee is being impertinent.Report

        • greginak in reply to Alan Scott says:

          While i think black friday is concentrated stupid, that is the way retail works. Is it efficient, well, so many stores do it, it probably works for them. In any case that is retail. This will be a busy season for any retail worker, there is no way around that. I’m sure many retail workers hate it, but i’m also sure plenty of workers love getting some overtime or a lot of hours so they can have plenty of holiday money.

          At some point employers can insist on some things, like working some holidays. That is just the world of work.Report

          • j r in reply to greginak says:

            I’m with @greginak on this. Notice that you hardly ever hear these sorts of complaints about nurses or fireman having to work on holidays and when you do they are in the context of applauding them for the importance of their service and the size of their sacrifice. I get why that is, nurses and fireman tend to have better pay and more job security than retail workers; their work tends to have high levels of psychic remuneration (even after you consider the relatively high psychic costs associated with routine exposure to trauma); and we generally view the work of hospitals and first responders as having a high level of social value.

            That’s exactly where the confused liberal narrative is a problem. Ought we hate Black Friday because it requires workers to give up too much for too little pay or ought we hate it because it is needless commercialism? There is a leftist point of view that wants to convince us that the former is a direct result of the latter, but that circle don’t square.

            In other words, the set of solutions that gets us to better-paid, higher-regarded retail workers likely involves more commercialism, not less.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

              We hate it because it’s a classic no-win arms race: if store A opes earlier, store B has to open just as early to compete, and now neither one is better off than if they both waited until a normal closing time. That’s just dumbness.Report

              • j r in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                It’s only dumb if you ignore the demand side. Lots of people obviously derive some utility from lining up on the night of Thanksgiving to go sport-shopping. And generally speaking, the way businesses survive is by servicing their customers.

                You can argue that either businesses ought to collude to purposefully not fulfill that demand or that government ought to intervene to accomplish a similar purpose, but, as I said in my comment, that only becomes a possible solution because you’ve mad an a priori determination that people wanting to shop the night of/day after Thanksgiving is something of little to no social value.

                That’s fine, but it doesn’t get us better paid retail workers and may get us less retail work in the aggregate.Report

              • Kim in reply to j r says:

                Jingling one’s Anterior Cingulate Cortex has debatable real world value…Report

              • greginak in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                There is a difference between the suck of working on a holiday and black friday being stupid. BF isn’t a holiday, it’s just a sporking busy day of shopping. I hope it fades down to minor insanity from now. This is always going to a hectic shopping season so that means long hours and busy stores.Report

              • It isn’t Black Friday I object to: it’s the way that it has gradually bled back into Thanksgiving. And I’ll admit that part of that is aesthetic: can’t we have just a few days during the year that aren’t devoted to more and newer stuff? But part is that people who genuinely want to spend the holiday with their friends and families shouldn’t have to give that up to no one’s actual benefit.Report

              • j r in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                But the people who want to shop Thursday night and Friday and the workers who want to earn money on those days should have to give that up for your aesthetic sense of what the holidays are for?

                The fact that we are talking about hourly workers matters.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                This only makes sense if you don’t believe in the idea of community and the communal at all. If you think that society should just consist of automized individuals pursuing their own interests and needs than sure but if you have any sense of the communal than the idea that their should be certain holidays where certain activities are off limits isn’t a far-fetched concept. In the United States, holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are supposed to be an expression of communal American identity.

                Your also assuming that the workers are doing this on their own free will and have the option between earning money or a holiday. There isn’t much evidence to support this.Report

              • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

                This only makes sense if you don’t believe in the idea of community and the communal at all.

                Are you kidding me? Imagine if I responded to a comment from you by saying: this only make sense if you don’t believe in the idea of individual choice or the right of an individual to opt out of publically enforced celebrations.

                You think maybe that would be a slight exaggeration?

                Your also assuming that the workers are doing this on their own free will and have the option between earning money or a holiday.

                And I’m not assuming anything. I am saying that some percentage of hourly workers would likely choose the pay over the off-time (not every single American attends some big family/friend Thanksgiving celebration) and that, as the wages and psychic compensation of the work increase, so do the number of people who would make that choice.

                The best way to help low wage workers is to help them increase their bargaining power not to further restrict their choices by public fiat.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                Most of the time workers protested and organized for higher pay and less work like during the long struggle for the eight hour day. They also understood that people who “choose” to work longer hours could be used to get the rest of them to go along with it.Report

              • Kim in reply to j r says:

                I agree. I like unions, too.
                If you weren’t allowed to be told “you’ve got to work or we’ll fire you”, well, then you could negotiate a per-day premium for holiday work.

                And I’d get paid a lot for working on Christmas, even though I’m not Christian.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to j r says:

                j r: The best way to help low wage workers is to help them increase their bargaining power not to further restrict their choices by public fiat.

                How? I posit the reason Black Thursday sales exist is that low wage workers effectively have no bargaining power vis-a-vis the decision to work on the Thanksgiving holiday. I would be much more interested in a solution that put that decision into the worker’s hands than one of government fiat that Black Thursday shouldn’t exist.Report

              • j r in reply to Alan Scott says:



                Good question. And I don’t know. This is likely to be one of the big economic dilemmas of our time, akin to the end of agriculture as a major employment sector. There has been and will continue to be a big divergence in the labor force between those with high levels of skill and human/social capital and those without.

                Unions may be part of the answer, but I doubt that they are the answer for the simple reason that the more concessions unions can force out of retailers, the quicker retailers will move to automation to reduce their reliance on human labor. Part of my frustration with @leeesq’s comment above is that the idea that 120-year labor history ought to be our guide for contemporary labor and employment issues is deeply flawed. We can fight over the same old partisan issues, but what’s the point of that? Industrial workers in the early 20th century were ultimately able to gain a robust set of rights and protections for themselves, because of the prominent role of 20th century industries. Retail ain’t that.

                The ideal solution is a holistic one that includes addresses some of the failings of the secondary education system, moves towards better models of post-secondary education, and texts more flexible work arrangements. I would also add that more family formation would help, as well. And I would love to see a basic income guarantee or some form of souped up EITC.

                All that aside, the point of my comment was to say that the commercialism complaint and the plight of the workers complaint are related, but not the same thing. There’s no one magic bullet that solves both problems and, conversely, the solution to one may aggravate the other.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to j r says:

                I think increasing automation may actually help the low wage worker with their ability to negotiate, as their job changes from someone who does a boring and repetitive task to someone who has to carefully fix shit when the automated process inevitably goes wrong. “Oops, self-check is down” is an annoyance when you have two self-check lanes and three regular cashiers. It’s a business killer when you have only self-check lanes.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                You might think that labor history should not provide a guide for present concerns but my reading of the news indicates that the concerns of the present laborers are similar to those of the past; low wages, crappy hours, and bad working conditions. Workers who were subject to flexihours do not like it and want a fixed schedule where they know they are going to be at work generally. This seems roughly similar to the protest against long and grueling hours of earlier generations.Report

              • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Then your reading is flawed. Here is some information I found with a few minutes of Googling (I’m leaving out the links to avoid getting dinged by the spamblock):

                On low-wage workers generally (from 1984, which explains the low pay):

                FROM SIPP, No. 119; S. K. Long, The Urban Institute; A. Martini, Mathematica Policy Research.
                A finding that clearly emerges from Table 4 is the positive correlation between low wages and low hours of work. Secondary workers in poverty earn on average $3.47 an hour, and on average work a mere 576 hours a year.. Annual
                hours of work almost double (to 1,047 hours) for sole/primary earners in poverty… Low earners with family income above poverty work an average of about 1,200 hours per year…

                And on retail workers specifically:

                Work Hours in Retail: Room for Improvement; Upjohn Institute Policy Papers Today, in retail, even the full-time-hours guarantee falls below 40 hours, and often below 35, with significant implications. Low base hours mean limited weekly earnings and generate variability and unpredictability in individuals’ total hours and scheduling.

                What many low-wage workers do face is awkward and unpredictable schedules and some have to make a living by working two or three part-time jobs, which can mean lots of time commuting between them. So sure, labor history has something to teach us, but it ain’t a guide, cause today’s low-wage workers face a fundamentally different problem than industrial workers did a hundred or so years ago.Report

              • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I’m wary about how much history can be a “guide” to anything. It strikes me that most (all?) appeals to history as a guide are based on analogical reasoning or sometimes on counterfactual reasoning. There’s probably a justification for engaging in both forms of reasoning to address present concerns, but they’re fraught with difficulties, too.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

                Again, Friday is fine with me. It’s Thanksgiving itself that’s the (my) problem.

                And presumably stuff that doesn’t get bought Thursday night will get bought Friday morning or sometime later. It all evens out.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Is there a problem with professional (american) football on that day?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe says:

                Thursday football in general means plying on unreasonably short rest,Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                That’s true, and why the players union hates Thursday games, but that’s moving the goal posts on the objection to engaging in non-essential paid work on a holiday.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to j r says:

                But the people who want to shop Thursday night and Friday and the workers who want to earn money on those days should have to give that up for your aesthetic sense of what the holidays are for?

                Why do you think there is some group that specifically wants to show ‘Thanksgiving at midnight’?

                Isn’t it much more likely that there is a group that merely wants to shop when prices are the cheapest, and the stores could decided to have that sale *any time they want*?

                There is absolutely nothing stopping stores from having a ‘First weekend in December midnight sale’. Or, hell, have the sales Thanksgiving *weekend*, like they used to be, just not at goddamn 6 in the evening on Thanksgiving?

                Don’t talk about what people ‘want’ when what is going on is *clearly* an arms race, and a pretty pointless one at that. The store open earlier because the shoppers get there earlier, the shoppers get there earlier because the lines are long, the lines are long because stores are trying to get customers, so the customers stand in line.

                Yes, people in arms races ‘want’ more arms, as that is an entirely logical thing to get more of, but that doesn’t mean that we should stand by and let them happen…we should try to figure out some way both sides can *exit* arms races, especially completely goddamn pointless ones.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to DavidTC says:

                We ought not assume that the shoppers necessarily want Thanksgiving day shopping, either. Part of the arms race is that the stores advertise deals, with only limited amounts of the product available. If it is important to a shopper to get that deal, the shopper has to do whatever it takes to get into the store in time to get it.

                This is to say, once we get into an arms race cycle, the situation may be to the benefit of nobody. Not the shoppers, not the store employees, and not necessarily even the stores as corporate entities. If, after all, they could get away with opening the doors at 9:00 on Friday, they would be thrilled to not have to pay their employees to come in the day before.Report

              • gingergene in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                What about when we bleed through Thanksgiving and come out the other side? When “Black Friday” becomes “Black Wednesday”?

                I’m only half kidding. I think that might actually be one end of this: everyone going earlier and earlier to beat the competition until we arrive at some point that can’t/won’t be broken through.

                Anecdotally, I think the hard backstop to Christmas creep is Halloween, and not because of any kind of altruism or respect for the season or anything, but because Halloween is fast becoming a big, spendy holiday as well, and the stores won’t want to cannibalize that business.

                So that’s my prediction: Nov 1 becomes the new Black Friday, and we can all go back to enjoying our 4 day Thanksgiving weekend in a stuffing-induced carb coma.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to gingergene says:


                As a non-Christian, I have noticed there are a lot of people who really really like Christmas. There are all sorts of social media groups that exist 24/7/365 as countdown to Christmas meme type generators. Most people are not this unreasonable but I am always perplexed by how much people go all out for Christmas.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Yeah, I don’t understand why people like Ramadan. YOU’RE FASTING, PEOPLE!!!! YOU CAN’T EVEN SMOKE!!!!Report

              • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                The feasting every night probably has something to do with it.

                Not a bit like Yom Kippur, which is a very serious holiday.Report

              • Zac in reply to Jaybird says:

                People I know think I’m weird for thinking this, but I really like the idea of Ramadan and wish we as a country would adopt a secular version of it, the same as we’ve done with Christmas. Sure, you have to fast from to sun up to sun down…but that teaches you some discipline. And then you get to feast and party! Every night for a whole month! That is just awesome.Report

              • Vikram Bath in reply to Zac says:

                Zac: I really like the idea of Ramadan and wish we as a country would adopt a secular version of it

                If you actually want Americans to culturally appropriate Ramadan, the only way to sell it would be to tie it to drinking. You’ve got the right idea with

                Zac: And then you get to feast and party! Every night for a whole month!

                But you’ve got to more explicitly incorporate the booze you are proposing would be involved.Report

              • Zac in reply to Vikram Bath says:

                I’m reminded of the Wyatt Cenac bit where he talks about how you know your ethnicity has been accepted in America when white people make one of your holidays into a drinking holiday, and thus clearly the path to acceptance of black people in America is for all of us to start getting shitfaced on Martin Luther King Day.

                Hm. How strong is the Muslim prohibition on booze, at least in American Muslim communities, I wonder? Because I wouldn’t want it to by its nature exclude Muslims any more than secular Christmas excludes Christians.Report

              • Kim in reply to Zac says:

                Alcohol is pretty seriously bad, to a lot of muslims (99%, I’d say).

                Of course, as in all things, Iran is seriously different.Report

              • gingergene in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I’m not the person to ask. Part of the charm of Christmas for me is the *specialness* of it. Celebrating Christmas all year sounds about as appealing as having a birthday party every day. Cake, ice cream and presents are great, in moderation. Same with Christmas (substituting egg nog and candy for the cake and ice cream).Report

              • j r in reply to DavidTC says:

                we should try to figure out some way both sides can *exit* arms races, especially completely goddamn pointless ones.

                It is interesting that, in these situations, “pointless” tends to get defined as activity that has no value to me.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to j r says:

                Unless there’s a genuine difference between the values of shopping on Thursday and shopping on Friday that currently escapes me, I’m not seeing whom it would have value to.Report

              • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                One jingles the anterior cingulate more than the other.

                Does gambling have a different value than playing the stock market?Report

            • greginak in reply to j r says:

              Yeah some people should be working on all holidays; cops, docs, etc. Also a great day to go downhill skiing is Xmas. Never had big crowds so lots of open space. I certainly feel for people who have to work long hours on holidays at crappy jobs. That does suck. But as insane as black friday is, it ain’t a holiday.

              I’ve worked on holidays when i was much younger and worked in a hospital. Granted holidays aren’t a big deal for me, but the time and half was cool and i still got to see family after my shift. Holidays aren’t a big deal for a lot of people and some actually prefer to be out of the house since holidays are sad and/or hard times.Report

              • Vikram Bath in reply to greginak says:

                Cops and docs make some sense. At least a doctor could conceivably need to treat a patient who could not be treated just as well the next day.

                Why is it necessary for every single gas station to stay open? And every single grocery store? Can people not plan one day in advance? Given that these aren’t high-wage positions either, I wonder why no one makes a big deal about it. The only thing I can guess is that it’s inertia. People are used to Walmart being closed on Thanksgiving, but they are used to Exxon being open.Report

              • Kim in reply to greginak says:

                Had pager on Thanksgiving. Will have it again for Christmas, but I volunteered for that one.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

                When I was in my 20’s, I wanted and begged for overtime and holiday pay. I might have made noises and complaints about the whole “well, you don’t have kids… could you be the guy who covers everybody for Christmas?” thing but, privately, I was laughing all the way to the bank.

                Now that I am older, meh. I’d prefer the day off. I’m delighted by the kids who want to work on Christmas and I am appropriately sympathetic to their complaints.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Obviously you were just a sucker being exploited by the man…Report

              • gingergene in reply to greginak says:

                **Anecdata warning**

                My first couple jobs were in integrated steel, which is a 24hr-365day thing: for technical reasons, you can’t just shut down certain parts of a steel mill for a holiday. We worked skeleton crews, just enough to keep the place together, and never had a problem filling them.

                A huge part of this was that the (union*) workers got holiday pay + overtime pay, so 8 hours of work got you the equivalent of 20hrs pay. Now, change the rules so that you only get 8 hours of straight pay if you work, or get a day off with your family for no pay, and I think that plays out much differently.

                *Non-union supervisors just got 8 hours comped, but we typically ran the whole mill with just a couple of supervisors, and this duty was shared so that everyone got most holidays off, and no one got stuck working Christmas every year.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to gingergene says:

                This. For any given holiday, it’s not especially hard to find a skeleton crew to keep things going. There’s always somebody who is free, if you’re willing to pay extra.

                The problem with Black Friday is that it’s a major production–one that necessitates heightened staffing levels to the point that some stores require that every staff member work Black Friday. That means nobody can travel on Thanksgiving. And when stores have midnight openings, that means workers who have to be in on the holiday getting ready even if customers aren’t.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to gingergene says:

                The key word in this anecdote is union. I understand that somebody always has to work on holidays for a variety of reasons. Accidents happen, people get sick, and crimes and fire occur. People need power, gas, water, and transportation; so those systems must be maintained. The thing is that retail and many servicel jobs aren’t one of the things that need to be done and most of the workers are not unionized and can’t collectively bargain for a good deal for working a holiday. Even in fields that require people to work on holidays, some form of collective representation is necessary to prevent exploitation.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                “…some form of collective representation is necessary to prevent exploitation.”

                Is that really the only way to prevent exploitation?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

                From my perspective, yes. There are differences in bargaining power between the owner and the employee. This is especially when the owner is a big corporation and the person doing the hiring is just a manager who must follow orders. Even when the power differential is less, the employee generally needs the job more than the owner needs the particular employee. If your dealing with jobs that require specialized skills or training than the situation is different but for the mass of jobs, including some well paid ones, collective bargaining is a necessity to prevent exploitation. That or law.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                How are you defining exploitation?Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    Though I honestly don’t think that anti-Black Friday rhetoric has anything to do with decreased Black Friday sales. Certainly not that much. Most anti-Black Friday rhetoric is written by semi-Bohemian upper-middle class liberals and targeted at semi-Bohemian upper-middle class liberals in publications like Vice and Slate.

    Black Friday also has to compete with small-business Saturday and cyber-Monday now. Meaning that Black Friday sales could be decreasing because of Capitalism and not a mark of the end of Capitalism.

  4. LeeEsq says:

    What Saul said, a lot of people are probably doing their holiday shopping online now because you can get even better deals than you do in the stores from the comfort of your own home.Report

  5. Oscar Gordon says:

    I’ll commence to give a flying f*#k when the overall holiday sales numbers are equally low.

    The obsession with trying to use single data points to forecast trends is annoying.Report

    • aaron david in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


      Black Friday is the START of the holiday shopping season. No more, no less. The single most heavily shopped day is the day befor Xmas. And with the streching out of the sale season, with pre-BF days, online shopping, etc. it only really makes a diference if the total sales for the season are down. Now, that effects employment, so it is something to watch.Report

    • Oscar Gordon,

      No one has attempted to do that.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Ah, my bad, my initial read left me with that impression.Report

        • Thank you for being so forgiving, but you were right in your accusation in at least one sense. I *am* extrapolating from one year’s data. On Roland’s War on Thanksgiving thread, I said that I think sales on Black Friday will get smoothed out across the weeks before and after. I also predicted that we are close to peak-Thanksgiving sales. That is, I think in future years we will see fewer stores opening on Thanksgiving rather than more.

          So, I do take a 10% decrease as evidence in favor of my thesis.

          But I do not think that holiday sales as a whole are down 10% nor do I know anyone who would make such a claim. A 10% drop in overall retail sales for a quarter would be breathtaking. I doubt it has even ever happened in the United States since the Great Depression.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    I found easy parking at Target and Ikea during the mid-afternoon on Friday in Bergen County, NJ. That told me that Black Friday is dead.Report

  7. Kim says:

    Okay, you fell for the clickbait. Huzzah.
    Really, did you think it would take THREE DAYS to compile millions of records from different companies?

    They print stuff every year, and it’s always bullshit.

    Now, mind, if VISA was saying something, well, they’ve at least got some massive consumer polling.

    But this ain’t fucking VISA. This is someone giving “preliminary” (cue FALSE, even the government revises preliminary stats a lot) data on something they have no reason to actually know about. Unless they’re hacking.Report

  8. Mo says:

    Initial Black Friday numbers are garbage and should not be republished. ShopperTrak uses foot traffic measurements and, well that’s all they use. The record of NRF and ShopperTrak are perfect(ly wrong).Report

  9. dragonfrog says:

    Urbanist types have been using the fact of Black Friday being supposedly the busiest shopping day by a big margin, to point out the excessive amount of resources devoted (and sometimes required by zoning to be devoted) to parking facilities. If store parking lots aren’t even full to overflowing on Black Friday, then they’re bigger than they have any business being, and we’re wasting money requiring them to be as big as they are.

  10. Kazzy says:

    How do we feel about 7-11’s being open on Thanksgiving? Gas stations? Public transit running? Taxi cabs? Doormen? These are all jobs I’m pretty sure people are doing on Thanksgiving. And I’m not really sure we can call any of them necessities (in the way we can say a police officer or fire fighter or ER doctor is performing a necessary function). So where do we draw the line?

    Personally, I don’t really understand Black Friday. It ain’t for me. At the same time, when a few friends and I wanted to meet up for a beer Thursday evening after our family dinners were over and the local watering hole was closed, we were a little annoyed. You can’t please all the people all the time. Do I think we could reach a point wherein holiday shopping on and around Thanksgiving presents a very real problem that requires some form of intentional and/or centralized response? I guess? Probably? But I don’t think we are there yet and some very early data seems to indicate that the tide may be turning.

    So before we continue hand wringing over the plight of the low-wage worker or the limited opportunity for deals of the frugal shopper or the exploited consumer… why don’t we actually look at what the data says and, include in that, the actual feelings of the supposedly aggrieved groups?Report

    • Zac in reply to Kazzy says:

      Very strong point, Kazzy. I agree completely.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      How do we feel about Chick-fil-A being closed on Sundays?

      I know, for my part, I want some Seventh-Day Adventists to open a few of their own.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

        How do we feel about Chick-fil-A being closed on Sundays?

        Pretty darned frustrated and hungry, when I get me the craving tor some damn tasty Christian chicken fried in peanut oil.

        Fortunately for me, there’s an Original Tommy’s right across the street so if I’m going to break diet discipline and the Chick fil A is closed on account of Jeebus, there’s some chili cheese fries right there for me.

        I believe this is what libertarians mean when they say that the market will take care of the problem.

        Now I’m very hungry.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        We? What do you mean we, Kemo Sabe?

        I think if a business wants to be open on a given day or at a given time, go for it. And if they want to be closed on a given day or at a given time, go for it. If people want Chik-fil-A on Sundays, then either demand will be sufficient that they will be willing to pay enough to convince Chik-fil-A to open -OR- a competitor will step in to fill the void.

        The only real exception I could see would be around businesses being a public nuisance, though that is a concept I really struggle with. If you don’t want to sleep above a noisy bar, maybe you shouldn’t live on Bourbon Street. Of course, neighborhoods change over time which is why there might be legitimate restrictions. Though I’d still rather see those take the form of limits on noise, light, etc. as opposed to a mandatory shut down.

        I’m pretty sure just about everywhere has limitations on alcohol sales and these might be justifiable if real public health concerns can be documented.

        But, yea, in general, let the businesses decide when it makes sense to be open and closed.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

          We used to live in a part of the country where *EVERYTHING* was closed on Sundays. Maybe, MAYBE!, a gas station was open. Some restaurants were open to capitalize on the after-church crowd, but fewer than you’d think.

          The idea, as I understand it, was that Sunday was a day of rest and you should be spending the day in some vague form of quiet contemplation (which usually entailed being shooed out of the house and told to play outside but quietly).

          A huge number of people got that day off. There were people who didn’t, but it was a lot closer to a given that you didn’t have to work that day than that you did.

          Thankfully, capitalism and greed entered the picture and made people realize that they were leaving money on the table and within a matter of years we had a race to the bottom and now you can go shopping at Wal-Mart at 3AM no matter what day of the week it is! I mean, if you’re a Wal-Mart shopper. I’m not. I never go there.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

            In all honesty, what does any of this have to do with my point?

            My point is that many people in non-essential/emergency positions work on Thanksgiving. So the outrage seems rather selective. And that much of the handwringing seems devoid of the opinions of the people being spoken about. If there is indeed a problem, I’d prefer a non-governmental solution.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

              It’s more that, if it’s a problem, it’s a collective action problem (if it’s a problem, of course) and the solution, if there’s a solution (I mean, if it’s a problem) probably has something to do with having a culture capable of withstanding the race to the bottom that capitalism’s siren song is calling us to.

              If there’s a problem, of course.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                I agree that we are unsure yet if this is a problem. One way to figure out if it is a problem would be to ask the people we tend to assume are being harmed.

                If it is a problem and if there is a solution, I agree that it requires collective action, but I’d greatly prefer to see this occur without the government getting involved.

                It is unclear to me if you really think that capitalism contains a siren song for a race to the bottom. I do not think this.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                I do think that capitalism contains a siren song for a race to the bottom.

                Where I begin to waver is the point at which “not a problem” becomes some combination of “someone else’s problem” and “a problem we have a responsibility to fix”.

                As one of the people who works banker’s hours, I am MADLY in love with the whole “everything is open until late!” phenomenon.

                But that requires people who don’t work banker’s hours. A hell of a lot of them.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, everything has pros and cons. Ideally, we’d maximize the pros and do our best to mitigate the cons. But one person’s ‘con’ is another person’s ‘pro’ so this naturally gets us into some tricky thickets.

                As to when things are open, I’m pretty comfortable leaving this up to individual businesses. If it makes sense to WalMart to be open 24/7 and they can find people to work the graveyard shift, I would not seek to limit their ability to be open during those times. Similarly, if Chik-Fil-A wants to close on Sundays, I’d never compel them to open those days.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

                “maximize the pros and…mitigate the cons”

                It’s clear the future holds great opportunities. It also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by 6 o’clock. – Woody Allen


              • Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

                Especially if you want to get pizza delivered from a restaurant that closes at 6:15!Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        How do we feel about Chick-fil-A being closed on Sundays?

        Annoyed, because the Chick-fil-A is next to the Costco, which I usually go to on Sundays.Report

    • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

      In 2012 when I was in Tucson (on exchange), I wanted to eat something nice for thanksgiving dinner. So many restaurants were closed that I ended up walking about 5 miles in the cold. Thank God that I found a place to eat. And I met a guy who I think was trying to sell me weed.Report