Xmas Creep 2012

Capitalism is extremely predictable, at least at the level of the managerial actions that drive its mundane operations. Thus, as we TCTers know, the great junk-pushing rite known as Christmas grows a bit every year. Hence, this unsurprising news from today’s edition of The New York Times:

Some of the nation’s biggest retailers — Sears, Target and Toys “R” Us among them — announced this month that they would be moving up their predawn Black Friday door-buster sales to Thanksgiving Day or moving up their existing Thanksgiving sales even earlier on Thursday. Walmart, which has already been open on Thanksgiving for many years, is advancing its bargain specials to 8 p.m. Thursday from 10 p.m.

But in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the stores will sit dark until the wee hours of Friday. Even Walmart will not open in Maine until just after midnight Friday or in Massachusetts or Rhode Island until 1 a.m.

New England’s blue laws were put down by early settlers to enforce proper behavior on Sundays. (The origin of the term is unclear. Some have said the laws were printed on blue paper, while others have said the word “blue” was meant to disparage those like the “blue noses” who imposed rigid moral codes on others.)

Over decades, many of those laws — which banned commerce, entertainment and the sale of alcohol, among other things — were tossed aside or ignored, or exemptions were granted. In some cases, the statutes were extended to holidays and barred retailers specifically from operating on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

All quite boring, except for this: If you go look at the story on the NYT site, you’ll notice its html title and the words that appear in your browser’s tab are this: “Blue Laws Curb Consumerism.”

So the inexorable march of Xmas marketing toward the Fourth of July is caused by consumerism — whatever that is, not capitalism?

Here you see the conceptual violence inherent in the system.

If you doubt such linguistic shifts matter, consider this lament from a local quoted by The Times:

“Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks for all you have,” said Mr. Brewster, 47, who runs a computer repair business. “I cringe to think what society is doing to itself,” he said of the mercantile mania that threatens one of the least commercial holidays.

“What society is doing to itself.”

Stalin and Hitler would be purple with envy at this amazing mental elision of a runaway ruling class.

Black Fraud-day

Santa-Capitalism One TCT tradition is taking note of the deepening psycho-social illness manifested on this, so-called Black Friday.

The phenomenon is, of course, part of the corporate capitalist effort known as Christmas. As marketing strategy executive Clyde McKendrick noted in his apology for this year’s metastasis of Black Friday into Black Thanksgiving in Tuesday’s edition of Advertising Age:

Many of the traditions we hold dear as institutions in our holiday season have been basic marketing ploys to drive sales. Some of our traditions with the highest cultural capital, such as Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, are no more than events designed to draw shoppers out of their homes. Likewise, it’s well known that we have Coca-Cola to thank for Santa’s current incarnation (though the folks at White Rock Beverages say they were first) and Montgomery Ward to honor for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

McKendrick’s reassuring words fairly drip with the actual sentiments and values behind the Xmas campaign:

By building Black Eve into the cultural calendar as a new Thanksgiving tradition, we are gaining another focal point in our holiday period that will act as a standalone event from Black Friday. Retailers capitalizing on this culture shift will benefit not only from an extension in selling, but in fact create a double spike in buying behavior.

Meanwhile, participation in the Black Thankgiving-Friday crime spree is an increasingly obvious IQ test. As reported by The New York Times for November 24, it unsurprisingly turns out that the thing is a giant bait-and-switch operation:

[D]espite all the ads that suggest otherwise, the lowest prices tend to come at other times of the year.

Retailers do discount smaller appliances on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “You’ll see small kitchen electronics under $20, sometimes under $10 — blenders, toasters,” he said. “But it’s low-end, cheap Chinese knockoffs that are heavily discounted — often there’s a mail-in rebate hassle that goes with it — but it’s a very, very low price.”

That is true of most of the biggest deals on that Friday, he said. Because retailers want to impress shoppers with very low prices, the quality of the discounted items can be low.

For higher-end electronics, Mr. de Grandpre’s trends show, shoppers should wait until the week after Thanksgiving.

“Black Friday is about cheap stuff at cheap prices, and I mean cheap in every connotation of the word,” Mr. de Grandpre said. Manufacturers like Dell or HP will allow their cheap laptops to be discounted via retailers on that Friday, but they will reserve markdowns through their own sites for later.

“The bottom line is, Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black,” [another expert] said. “It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products.”

Occupy Xmas, anybody?

TCT’s Annual Black Friday Post

consumer slave A website aptly named Slave Consumer World is as good a source as any for this year’s news on the unceasing expansion of the marketing trick known as “Black Friday”:

Toys-R-Us opens at 10pm on Thanksgiving, Kohl’s at 3am, and Sears and Target at 4am on Friday. Wal-mart (WM) will open at 12:01am Friday with all its Black Friday deals except electronics which go on sale at 5am.

For those readers who avoid the mass media in the United States, “Black Friday” is modern-American “Christian/Christmas”-based talk for “loss leader.”

The phenomenon and its constant creep forward in the calendar speak in many directions about the nature of our market-totalitarian society and culture.  Not least of the thoughts that occur to me is this:

“How would you like to be one of the ’employees’ who have the delightful privilege of going to work at 9:00 p.m. on ‘Thanksgiving’ (i.e., the gustatory launch-event for the yearly Xmas credit-card binge), or, worse, 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. on Loss Leader Day itself?”

If you are one of the chosen few, you might enjoy the lovely holiday tradition of administering CPR to a dying trample victim.

But don’t feel bad if you are not among those lucky enough to be called into work ringing up electronic picture frames in the dead of night:  Maybe you can just focus on the pleasures of achieving 99er status during this season’s glorious profit-gushing “jobless recovery.”