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Random Thoughts on Black Friday

4 Dec, 2013 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Another Black Friday has come and gone, and as I joined the madding crowd both the day before, after a hearty Thanksgiving Day dinner, and in the early morning hours of BF itself I made a mental note of various thoughts, observations and comments I’d like to share with you in this space.

For starters, the big news was that while consumer transactions were up, consumer spending was down. Welcome to our world, I thought. This is something we’ve seen time and time again, as the actual selling price of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs has gotten lower and lower.

This Black Friday, we must have hit bottom. I honestly don’t see how we can go any lower, with high-profile blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises and various “Harry Potter” movies selling for $1.96 on DVD and $4 on Blu-ray Disc and hundreds of more recent hits, such as The Great Gatsby, World War Z and Pacific Rim, priced in the same neighborhood. Even top-rated TV series such as “Dexter” and “Family Guy” were readily available for less than 10 bucks for a complete season.

Years ago, we’d talk and write about the “race to the bottom” and devaluing our precious product. No one’s talking about devaluation any more. As for the race to the bottom, we’re there, baby. It’s gotten to the point where at least on Black Friday, it’s oftentimes cheaper to buy a disc than it is to stream the same film over the Internet. Packaged media can’t help but survive under those circumstances.

I also noted quite a bit of rumbling about Walmart, in particular, opening on Thanksgiving Day. Lots of people complained it wasn’t fair to Walmart’s employees, and that we should boycott Walmart for not letting their workers stay home on the holiday with their families. Heck, I even heard talk of legislation to prevent retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Whoa. The same people who complained about Walmart opening Thanksgiving night — long after most holiday meals, I might add — probably went to the gym in the morning and stopped by the supermarket on the way home to pick up some extra gravy or cranberry sauce on their way to the family meal. No worries about poor exploited gym workers or supermarket checkers, I guess. Walmart has become something of a piñata, and if I can get up on my soapbox for a minute let me opine this is because Walmart, unlike many grocery chains, is a non-union shop — a singling out I find monstrously unfair.

If you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, then don’t. If enough people stay away, Walmart and the other big-box stores may rethink their decision. That’s the beauty of the free market, of supply and demand. But talk of boycotts and legislation is simply ridiculous. That’s just not how America works.  

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