Sunday, November 15, 2009

black friday lemonade

Aside from shoplifting and bartering, Black Friday is gaining consciousness as we move into mid-November. The search community has turned its attention away from Carrie Prejean (not really, she's still ranking #4, #5 and #21 at this hour) towards upcoming Black Friday specials.

Now why would the retail community want to capitalize on a term that was previously coined for financial ruin? Wikipedia provides a good summary. The earliest use of the term, "Black Friday", was not for the stock market crash of 1929 as I previously thought, but an earlier US financial crisis in 1869, the Fisk/Gould gold scandal. In all, there are approximately 19 uses of the term, including tornadoes, floods, massacres and riots in addition to financial ruin.

The first unofficial start of the Christmas buying season was a result of popular metropolitan Santa parades in early 1900s. The first reference to the Friday after Thanksgiving as being "black" came from the Philadelphia police and cabbies in 1965, in reference to the horrendous traffic, crowded sidewalks filled with shoppers and accidents waiting to happen. Merchants originally objected to using such a negative term with a history of catastrophic results. It wasn't until the 1980s that a new spin - a media spin - was created to justify that "black" referred to accounting ink color or when retailers began to realize profits for the year (being "in the black"). Conversely, though, I wouldn't think retailers would approve of the other ~330 days of the year as being "red".

I'm not convinced that the justification makes the connotation any better. Just sounds like trying to make lemonade out of lemons. Personally, I avoid the traffic and crowds by shopping online. But, if you get a $50 email gift certificate from me and it turns out to be redeemable for only $38.23, it's really because of shrinkage from those damn shoplifters.

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