Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Marketing Madness Begins

Elections no longer dominate headlines, and just in time. They would have been pushed back to page 19 in favor of other news articles extolling the arrival of what has morphed into the ultimate American holiday: Black Friday Eve and Black Friday.
Thanksgiving is no longer the quintessential American special day. It has become the prelude for the main event, the real American holiday, what Americans have made a classic American activity: shopping.

It does not matter what your gender is, your marital status, age, sexual preference, education, or immigration status. No one cares about your color, ethnic background, religion, job title or whether or not your are employed, retired, work full-time or part-time, are a professional, union worker, laborer, self-employed, tradesperson, or a card-carrying member of the 47%. An individual with a credit card, debit card, check, cash, gift card, or any other acceptable form of monetary payment is welcome to share in what is truly a homegrown American experience.

Thanksgiving has been supplanted by Black Friday and Black Friday Eve as the main happening of the late fall season. I doubt Abraham Lincoln had any idea what he unleashed when officially declaring that henceforth Americans would celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. Before the proclamation each state set their own Thanksgiving Day date.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United
States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next
As a day of Thanksgiving and Praise…

That was 1863. For the next 75 years Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

Fast forward to 1939. The country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President. Europe was mired in war. Retailers urged Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving a week earlier anticipating an increase in holiday shopping sales.

Pre-Christmas holiday shopping mania had already begun to take hold throughout the country. Retailers claimed research indicated most people began shopping for the holidays after Thanksgiving. They maintained – wishful hoping would be a more accurate description– shoppers would spend more if they had an extra shopping week before Christmas.

Roosevelt obliged. There was confusion for two years – 1939 and 1940 – as some states complied with Roosevelt’s proclamation and others did not. Congress officially legislated the change in 1941.

Studies later indicated people did not spend more because of the extra shopping days. But the change proved permanent.

The traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal (or Tofurkey for vegetarians) supplies much-needed energy to withstand the cold, standing in line for hours waiting for a favorite store to open, the rush to grab sale items, maneuver to checkout and finally hand over credit card, check or cash. These activities take time and energy. Turkey, stuffing and pie fortifies the mob shoppers.

In traditional American fashion the event has been extended and drawn out. Now there is Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday was originally a big online shopping day because, many years ago (as we will someday tell our great-grandchildren), few had fast Internet connections at home. People were forced to wait until work on Monday (yes, Virginia, most of us left our homes and went somewhere else to work back in the old days) to shop online.

But times changed. We all have fast Internet at home, the neighborhood coffee shop, library, or some other convenient location, and can now shop online anytime, anywhere.

And so ends a nostalgic walk down pre-RAM memory lane...

I hope everyone enjoyed family, friends and a wonderful holiday dinner.

And I hope everyone enjoyed their journey to the mall, outlet center, downtown business district or wherever their pocketbooks or wallets wandered.

I trust, besides spending money on Black Friday at big box stores, many of you spent dollars on Small Business Saturday, supporting your local shopkeepers. Go, economy, go!

And, in a note of complete disclosure, I must report I did not participate in any of the above post-Thanksgiving Day activities this year.


  1. Kind of sad that such a wonderful holiday gets forgotten of in the crush of shoppers. I stay away from all that and just enjoy time with family that I don't see often enough.

  2. We could use many more reminders like that!