If you had to nominate the two most overused and downright annoying words of the past few weeks, then “BLACK FRIDAY” would surely take the cake. We have been bombarded with special offers from all manner of retailers to create a prolonged six billion dollar spending frenzy – all at a time when Australians are supposedly doing it tough. Years ago the big discounting took place at the somewhat notorious Boxing Day Sales, where punters camped out over night and stampeded into the big department stores to grab that once a year bargain.
The words “Black Friday” once referred to the devastating bushfires in Victoria on Friday 13 in 1939, when seventy-one people lost their lives and countless homes were destroyed. Now it seems that reference has been forgotten altogether for an imported American tradition with few Australians aware of the true history. Even the yanks aren’t totally clued as to the actual origins of the term but they have certainly embraced it as the biggest retail day of the year, straight after Thanksgiving.
Obviously the internet and the rise of online shopping have facilitated an even crazier shopping mania, with the addition of so called Cyber Monday to extend the madness and bleed even more from the average credit card. Hey, why stop there — in the future we could easily expect “Two For One Tuesday”, “What A Bargain Wednesday” and “Turbo Charged Thursday”.
Some commentators have suggested that the big retailers are simply knocking dollars off products that they have had difficulty flogging and continue to clog up their warehouses. Others would like you to think that they are losing money, offering such generous discounted rates. Perhaps the reality here is that the mark up is so high to begin with that shaving twenty to thirty per cent off will still yield them a profit. All said and done do you really need forty percent off a $1500 robot vacuum? A $20 full price broom often works just as well!
One of the most alarming things I recently discovered was a website that keeps track of the number of deaths and injuries encountered by shoppers world-wide on Black Friday. Not surprisingly most of the incidents have occurred in the US where guns abound and shoplifting is a national pastime, however countries such as Ireland, the UK and South Africa also get a mention.
You would think there would be a kind of prevailing joy on Black Friday, a form of retail therapy that united most shoppers in their search for a bargain. That may well be the norm but the aberrations, as reported on Black Friday Death Count are frightening. In 2008, for example a worker died at a Long Island WalMart after being trampled in a crazed stampede. Walmarts figure prominently in the list of incidents which can also extend to the car park and the competition for spaces. In 2012 two people were shot at a Tallahassee Walmart over a parking space dispute and a year later a Virginia man was stabbed in a similar car park dust up.
Here in Australia, we would like to think we are a lot more civilised and there’s no need to wear a bullet-proof vest to the local mall. However, if the Black Friday lunacy continues to gain momentum, look out for the following headlines in the years to come.
“Family Of Four Steal Inflatable Hot Tub at Parramatta Mall – last seen escaping on Parramatta River”
“Cosco evoke Covid nostalgia with tag team all female toilet paper wrestling – winners receive a life supply”
“Man caught at K-Mart check-out wearing fifty pairs of underpants – forced to leave store free-balling”
“Bunnings apprehends shoplifter with chainsaw concealed in pants after painful accidental activation”
“90-year-old granny runs down security guard on mobility scooter after stealing $2000 gaming computer”