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Director's Rant: Black Friday - Basta!

Editor's Note: Maybe it was two weeks without electricity and heat starting in October when Hurricane Sandy sloshed itself over lower Manhattan and put 10 feet of seawater in the basement of the building where NYIP Director Chuck DeLaney lives, or maybe there’s some key planet in retrograde. Regardless, he’s in a cynical mood and wants to share it with you. We don’t know how long this will continue.

Chuck DeLaney, NYIP Director - Black Friday/Valentine’s Day Special Sale 88 days only! We’ll never know if it would have been this bad without the Great Recession that started in 2008, but as email marketing and retargeting have been developed, we’ve entered a cycle where there seems to be a never-ending pandering to the consumer’s thirst for bargains, pegged to holidays and other quasi-holidays, including the disgusting Black Friday.


Are there really bargains? We’ll get to that in a moment.


We all know how this started. People began doing a lot of Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. It became a big day. Then it became Black Friday. In late October this year I started getting emails from one marketer that dubbed the whole month “Black November!” Remember when Santa at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade signaled the start of the Xmas shopping season? Forget it. Christmas decorations are already in stores and office buildings all around Manhattan. Can the “Annual Groundhog Day Sale” be far behind?


Will Black Friday swamp Cyber Monday? We’ll have to wait a few days to find out, but the mindless efforts to play on the BF theme show a distinct lack of creativity. These are just a sample of the dopey subject lines from my inbox over the last two weeks:
  • 39 Black Friday Deals now available (sent to me two weeks ago)
  • Black-November Weekenders! (huh?)
  • Black Friday Preview
  • Black Friday Shoppers Want Your Gear!
However, the cake-taker, for me, blasted out of my television Tuesday night: BLACK FRIDAY EVERYDAY TAG SALE (really?)
Then, reading the paper on the subway Wednesday morning I came across this ad from
an uptown store.
1-Day Pre-Black Friday Sale: The New iPad 3 - $298.00
Great deal, but look at the fine print – only 3 available! It appears that people will line up for deals even if there’s really no chance to actually get them. By the way, this BF does mark the 4th Anniversary of the Black Friday gone awry when a WalMart employee was crushed to death when the doors opened at dawn at a WalMart in Valley Stream, Long Island in 2008.


In reality, these deals are nothing new. They’re what are known in the retailing business as loss leaders. Advertise some cheap stuff to get people in the door (try to keep the staff from being trampled) and then rack up the sales. Take a loss on those few items, and count on people to think everything is on sale and spend a lot of money on a buying frenzy in your store rather than the other guy’s shop. It works every time, and it will continue to do so until people, probably store employees, say “enough.” Should the employees and customers really leave their families in the dark of night post-Thanksgiving dinner to line up for bargains? Is there a limit? We’ll see what happens today.


After I settle down, I’ll offer some suggestions for the way photographers and other small businesses can promote their goods and services without pandering to the “bargain at all cost” herd mentality. After all, it demeans all of us. We’ll talk about loss leaders, time hammers, and price conditioners. But not until we’re past this madness. Remember the advice of Kenny the auctioneer: “The best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your wallet.”



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