Is the $200 laptop killing Thanksgiving?
Published: Monday, November 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.
Like countless others, I have done the Black Friday thing. You know, waking up early with a tryptophan hangover in an attempt to save a few bucks on gadgets for the family. I’ve gotten some pretty good deals too, even amid the clawing, scratching and hair pulling that have become a staple of these controlled riots. This year might be the tipping point; many have had enough, saying Black Friday has eroded the fabric of Thankful Thursday itself.
Of course, we all know that commercialism has a knack for stealing the life from all things sacred. This year, it’s unabashed. Instead of holding their alluring sales on Thanksgiving night, stores are going all in for a turkey day power grab. K-Mart fired the first salvo with its plans to stay open for 41 straight hours. Yes, the company that brings us such feel-good ad campaigns as “ship my pants” and “jingle balls” will open at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and not close its doors until 11 p.m. Friday.
Many see this as a Blue Light smack in the face to workers and their families.
Other retailers continue to creep up their opening hours as well. Walmart and Best Buy will roll out sales beginning 6 p.m. while a slew of others will open their doors at 8 p.m., including Macy’s which is caving into holding Thanksgiving Day hours for the first time this year. Sure, it’s logical big-box retailers would make these profit-focused moves, but then you have the head scratchers like Old Navy, which will open at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving. Of all the days of the year to buy skinny jeans, I doubt the one we stuff ourselves the most makes any sense.
What does technology have to do with this? Everything. Shoppers aren’t going to leave the second half of the annual Cowboys football game to buy a nice set of bath towels. No, it’s all about cheap electronics. Just look at the circulars to see what sort of bait stores are attaching to the hooks. Walmart has an iPad Mini for essentially $199. Best Buy has a Dell laptop for $177 or a 24-inch LED television for $79. Target has a Nintendo 3DS XL for $149. Even Kohl’s devotes the first five pages of its circular to electronics. It’s all electronics all the time.
If you’ve been brave enough to go out the past couple years, you can probably relate. I went at midnight last year to get my son a tablet and was shocked to see in-store lines for specific doorbuster items that snaked up and down the grocery aisles of a Super Walmart. It is mind-numbing to take in. This year, Walmart is offering a one-hour guarantee on 21 doorbusters, up from three in 2012. This might sound good if you think you’re going to walk in, swipe a credit card and walk out. Not. Chances are you’ll never make it through half of the in-store line in an hour’s time. I spent an hour just checking out last year. My savings on the tablet? About $40.
No doubt, it’s organized chaos. Stores who could spread out these deals over the weekend want shoppers to feel the perceived value of a mad dash. Not always the case.
The resounding pushback this year revolves around what is fair to employees and what is not. Sure, many could care less about the holiday and are happy for the extra hours. Others point to the fact that stores like Walmart will have close to 1 million workers nationwide manning their stations on a day traditionally set aside for family, food and football. Some equally large corporations, including Apple and Home Depot, are being praised for keeping doors closed.
While it might not be much of a silver lining, Walmart is offering holiday pay and turkey dinners for those who have been called to work on Thanksgiving Day — throwing them the proverbial wishbone. There is nothing like breaking bread and spooning yams with your manager and fellow cashiers.