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Fun on Friday: Black Edition

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Well, today is Black Friday.

Since 2005, the day after Thanksgiving has marked the busiest shopping day of the year. I know a lot of people who treat today like a holiday. They even have Black Friday traditions. I actually have some friends who meet at 3 a.m. on Black Friday for breakfast and then hit the sales.

Three a.m.? No. I’m not getting out of bed at 3 a.m. unless my house is on fire. And the way I sleep, maybe not even then.

But hey, I have a Black Friday tradition too: don’t go out of my house unless absolutely necessary. And if I do need to venture forth, stay as far away from malls and shopping centers as possible.

If you’ve been reading these Fun on Friday columns regularly, you might have caught on to my general cynicism about mainstream, pop-culture phenomenon. So, my refusal to participate in the Black Friday ruckus won’t come as a surprise to you. But come on — who really wants to go out at the butt-crack of dawn, fight traffic, elbow through a smelly mass of humanity to get into a retail store, risk a fistfight over the last discounted TV on the shelf, stand in a long line to pay for said discounted TV, fight traffic some more and then go home exhausted only to find out your el-cheapo TV broke in the melee?

I’m going to take a hard pass. Every single year. I’m familiar with fun. What I described above doesn’t qualify.

But Mike, you say. What about the bargains?

That’s a fair question. I like bargains. And there is no denying you can get some fantastic savings during the Black Friday sales. But it’s just not worth it to me.

There’s actually an economic lesson here. This is a perfect example of subjective value. You see, I value my sanity more than 40 percent off a laptop. I value a Friday morning sleeping in more than I value a cheap sweater. I value my time on Friday more than I value the bargains at Walmart. Saving a few bucks just isn’t worth the hassle involved going out on Black Friday.

Obviously, a lot of people disagree with me. But hey, you have the right to be wrong!

No. In all seriousness, this is the beauty of a free market. We all place different values on different things. We act according to our personal wants and needs, and the market sorts it all out. It’s a beautiful thing!

And I’ll let you in on a little secret. There’s this thing called the internet. You can get a lot of these Black Friday deals online without even having to put on pants.

So, do you know why they call it Black Friday?

Because it’s an awful day, that’s why!

Now, you have probably heard that the name derived from the fact that the busiest shopping day of the year gets retailers out of “the red” and into “the black” financially for the first time during the year. But this is pretty much propaganda put out by the retail industry because they don’t want negative connotations attached to one of the most important days of the year.

The first reference to this financial explanation for Black Friday was in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1981. (According to Wikipedia, which we all know is never wrong. Plus there is a footnote. I didn’t read it. But a footnote means it’s a real fact.)

The earliest known use of “Black Friday” predates the Enquirer article by three decades. The term was used in the journal, Factory Management and Maintenance in 1951, referring to workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving. About the same time, cops in Philadelphia started using Black Friday and Black Saturday to describe the crowds and traffic congestion as the Christmas shopping season kicked off the weekend after Thanksgiving.  In 1961, a public relations expert recommended rebranding the days, “Big Friday” and “Big Saturday.” That went nowhere. The New York Times started using Black Friday to describe the busiest shopping and traffic day in 1975. You’ll notice traffic is a recurring theme here.

So, there ya go. It’s Black Friday because it’s an awful day.

And if you’ve ever worked retail on Black Friday, you know this is true. I have some experience in this area. I worked for Toys R Us part-time for several years – back when Toys R Us was a thing. It’s as horrible as you might imagine. I actually had a break up a fist-fight over a Power Ranger one year. If I had a dollar for every time some red-faced mother told me I was ruining her little darling’s Christmas because the store was out of X, Y, or Z, I’d own a lot more gold right now. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like these people were kind of missing the whole spirit of the season.

Well, anyway, Happy Black Friday! If you go out, I hope you survive. And remember, be considerate of your fellow Americans. Make sure you turn your phone horizontal before you video any Black Friday fist-fights!

Oh – and if you want to buy your loved-ones gold for Christmas (which I think would be a fantastic gift) you don’t have to venture out at all. Just call a SchiffGold precious metals specialist at 1-888-GOLD-160. If you want the genuine Black Friday experience, you might be able to talk them into swearing at you. Or not.

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.


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Photo by Diariocritico de Venezuela via Flickr.

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About The Author

Michael Maharrey is the managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and the host of the Friday Gold Wrap Podcast and It's Your Dime interview series.
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