HE SAYS:

Now that Black Friday has come and gone, I am left with one very disturbing question.  What is behind the violence that has occurred around the country by some of these extreme shoppers?

I understand that a somewhat surreal atmosphere exists when people camp out all night and, in some cases, for several days at their local mall or big box store looking for that elusive deal of a lifetime.  I always felt that it was a little odd for anyone to expend that kind of effort just to snag a discount on some big ticket item; however, I chalked it up to a combination of the thrill of the hunt with the desire to feel that you won a small victory over your fellow consumers.

This year it seems that more people took this competition to a dangerous level as they fought with each other, fought with store security and the police, and otherwise showed a lack of concern for anyone who got in their way.  Was the process ramped up because the economy is so bad and good deals are even more important than ever?  Was all of this violence the fault of big business enticing people to go off the deep end by offering a very limited number of discounts so as to incite the frenzy as some critics are now claiming?   I think that the blame is found within us rather than from the economy or the alleged abuses of big business.  Let’s face it, these deals were not on essential items such as food so it was never a case of fight for the deal or starve.

It seems to me that the shopping frenzy that resulted in some of this violence has more to do with the out of control nature of the crowd mentality than as a result of an overreaction to a bad economy or the manipulations of big business.  I believe that there is always a certain small segment of the population that is prone to act violently when put into any stressful situation and it is these people who turned a shopping experience into a battleground.  Granted, this year there may be more stress than ever and more people were finally pushed over the edge which may account for the fact that there has been less violence in years past.

I actually hope that the violence that we saw during Black Friday is just a sad commentary on human nature rather than a stark consequence of desperate people caught in a desperate quest to save some money.   I would be far more concerned if this violent behavior was as a result of normally sane people being pushed to the brink of madness over our economy than if it was as a result of some unstable people simply being unable to behave appropriately because they were thrust into a situation that made them believe that the rules of society had been suspended.

In either case, I can agree with those people who want to do away with Black Friday and all other days noted for extreme shopping since it has such a negative effect on some of the participants as well as on our society.   Black Friday may be the best day for retailers but it certainly brings out the worst in some people.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

For many years starting when my children were old enough to go to the shopping mall with me, I would take them on a mission to buy our Christmas gifts for Annemarie.  

I dislike shopping and, particularly, do not like to be anywhere near the mall during the holiday shopping frenzy.  However, I would make this concession for the benefit of my children so that they could get into the holiday spirit and feel the pride of helping to pick out the gifts for their mother.  

I would make a big production out of the whole experience.  I would take time off from work so that we could go during the week close to dinner time on the theory that the mall would be the least crowded at that time of day.  We would do our shopping and then I would take them out to dinner so that we could spend some relaxing time together and congratulate ourselves on what wonderful gifts we had purchased.

We would get the shopping done in record time as I brought them to one store after another quickly picking out just the right gifts.  I must have appeared to them to be the most incredible and insightful shopper who always knew exactly what their mother would want from each store.

What I am about to reveal was my most closely guarded secret while my children were still young.  Annemarie, knowing full well how inept I am at shopping, particularly, for her would send me off to the mall with a very detailed list of what she wanted with instructions of not only the store but the department within the store and the display case within the department.  For example, I would be instructed to get the brown gloves (of a certain size) located on the top shelf of the glove display in the women’s department at a particular store.  Yes, there was very little in the way of surprises for Annemarie on Christmas morning; but, the children would be so proud and happy at her genuine expressions of joy that it made the charade all worthwhile.

There would, in fact, be a few surprises as I would let the children purchase some small gifts that caught their eye that they thought Annemarie would like and, on occasion, I would get spontaneous and buy something that was not on the list.

In recent years, now that the children have grown, we have gotten away from this ritual and I, with my daughter’s help, am able to venture into the mall without a list and still bring home gifts that Annemarie can enjoy.  Of course, I always keep the receipts just in case she wants to exchange something.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?