(Full-contact shopping, American style)
Last weekend, I went to a hockey game and a Black Friday sale broke out.
Ah, Christmas. That magical time of year when we exchange gifts, visit family and friends, and blast defenseless toy store shoppers in the face with pepper spray.
What in the world is going on with these discount-stalking holiday shoppers? These Black Friday blackguards? I’ve seen better-behaved people at a Hannibal Lector reunion.
Now, to be sure, we should’ve seen it coming. Slowly, inexorably, retailers have reinforced the idea: if you’re not out there shopping on Black Friday, you are an ice troll who makes children drink schnapps and doesn’t love house pets.
Shame on you! Good people – decent, patriotic people – they get out there on Black Friday in support of truth, justice and Early Bird discounts.
And this year, the Greed That Stole Christmas couldn’t even wait till Friday morning to lay lures; couldn’t wait till Black Friday to do Black Friday. Stores started teasing us for 6am, then 4am, 1am, midnight … ultimately, we had Friday on Thursday.
Hang on. At this rate, next year we’ll have Black June.
If we can wait till June.
By the way – the pepper spray attack? That actually happened, at a West Coast mega-store. Some dedicated shoppinista, working on reliable intel from her forward reconnaissance patrol, identified and vectored a high-value target – a shrink-wrapped pallet of undefended Nintendo Wii. (or Wee, or Whee, or Huiee, or however you correctly misspell it)
Sergeant Majorette accepted her mission. She knew the score, she knew the cost. Collateral damage was acceptable. She bivouacked, waiting, silently intoning her mission:
Purchase, with extreme prejudice.
The rest was reflex. When the indigenous military began to unwra … um … when the store’s staff began to unwrap the goods, the alleged lunatic allegedly whirled around, whipped out her handy Girl-on-the-Go-sized pepper spray, and wasted the other Wii hopefuls. Then she escaped into the crowd and, later, annexed Poland.
In another ugly incident, a Customer Service clerk was attacked. A dissatisfied patron had just purchased a new smartphone app, the iSleep 3000, offering a library of sounds guaranteed to help battle insomnia (you know – taped loops of rain, waves, chirping birds, Al Gore speeches). Apparently, the patron went into a blind rage after discovering that the “Sound of Cicadas” option was only available every 17 years.
Of course, I wasn’t there. I heard about all the consumer violence from the newspaper, the TV news Hair Helmets, and eye-witness accounts from recovering survivors. I personally didn’t shop on Black Friday because, well, because I’m scared. And there is no product on this planet for which I am willing to lose actual body parts.
I’m not unreasonably spineless, mind you. When I go shopping, I expect a bit of inconvenience, an acceptable level of violence. For example, I’m as prepared as any other grown man to get chewing gum stuck to my shoe. I am NOT ready to get mace-blinded by some quarter-ton, high-torque, eight-jelly-sandwich-eating Aunt wearing purple-and-peach-striped spandex and sequined flip-flops, all over a $2 DVD of “Star Wars – The Musical.”
And I’m not even talking about the check-out line, where one expects a few bruises, some insults, and 68 magazines dedicated to weddings and weight loss. I’m talking about violence out in the product aisles.
Basically, I like my violence at arm’s length (and I wouldn’t mind having longer arms). I prefer manageable mayhem, like “New Release” day at a trailer park video store, or the all-you-can-shovel-down Chinese buffet just after Sunday church in a Southern town.
It may be coincidence, but the vast majority of these “Customer Slays Nine” headlines seem to originate inside huge box stores with names like Sprawl-Mart, Worst Imaginable Buy, and Pan-Asian Slave Labor Sweatshop Outlet-R-Us. I have no empirical evidence of any causal relationship between crazed zombie-like violence and Montana-sized enclosures full of substandard, imported lead-laced teething rings. I’m just saying.
And, as with any psychotic episode worth its prescription hallucinogenics, there were the odd some who didn’t fit the mold. In one TV ad, I saw a nice, relaxed lady shopping in some department store. She calmly approached her desired item, lifted it from the shelf, placed it in her shopping cart, and calmly moved on.
Why no victory shriek? Why didn’t she sprint madly to the next item on her list? Why was she not hobbling nearby shoppers with a modified price labeling gun?
Obviously, this woman doesn’t love her family.