Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black... what?

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  Now that Black Friday is--thankfully--over, how many of you got out there and pushed, shoved, and trampled to get that bargain?

For curiosity's sake, I looked up the origin of the term.  Here's what Wikipedia says: The first mention of Black Friday referring to shopping the day after Thanksgiving occurred in Philadelphia in 1961. "For downtown merchants throughout the nation, the biggest shopping days normally are the two following Thanksgiving Day. Resulting traffic jams are an irksome problem to the police and, in Philadelphia, it became customary for officers to refer to the post-Thanksgiving days as Black Friday and Black Saturday."

But did you know that it was not until 2005 that the day after Thanksgiving actually became the biggest retail sales day of the year?

Okay, so I have a confession. I don't think I have ever shopped for anything on Black Friday. I usually try not to go out of the house, because I don't want to get stuck in a traffic jam, or be run into by one of those shoppers still fueled by adrenaline and shopping rage. I wonder how much money people actually end up saving, and how much of the shopping is actually for gifts? Honestly, I suspect that in many cases, it's not about the money at all, but about competitiveness. I'm still horrified by the case of the Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death in 2008 in Valley Stream, New York.  The mob refused to let other employees render aid to their stricken colleague, because they didn't want to miss a bargain...

How did this day that is supposed to be associated with Christmas gift giving become an outlet for the worst side of human nature?

So, fellow REDS, do you venture out on Black Friday?  AND how much of your Christmas shopping have you done? And where and how will you do it?

(I'm dying to know who is the organized shop-throughout-the-year RED, and who is the last-minute-panic RED!)  Fess up!  I'll go first.

DEBS: How much shopping have I done?  None. Zero. Zilch. I have, however, looked at some catalogs, and started to think about it.  I'll order some things online.  I'll buy some books, I'm sure.  And I'll try to do at least a little shopping at my local stores on the town square.  We've never been a family to go in for high-dollar gifts at Christmas (do you actually know anyone who buys a new car as a gift? Or diamonds? Or any of those things the TV ads would convince you EVERYONE buys??) Even as a child my favorite gifts were books and records. Now I try to find little things that the recipients will enjoy.  My daughter and I are both into foodie stuff, and always have a great time shopping for each other.  Neither of us can keep a secret, however, so we always know what we're getting! The hubby always want socks, and very thoughtfully puts up a wish list on Amazon:-)

HALLIE EPHRON: I hate shopping and I hate crowds. So no. If Black Friday depended on me, it would very rapidly go extinct.

This year, our Christmas present to ourselves is a week in a condo on Sanibel Island in Florida with our kids. I'm GETTING as well as giving, because nothing is more precious to me than time I can spend with my girls, my son in law, and my grandbaby.

I've pretty much abandoned other gift giving, other than Christmas morning stocking stuffers. Some of it I make (candy), some I buy (bottles of weird colored nail polish and sparkly eye shadow), and always a magazine to read Christmas morning. None of us needs more "stuff."

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I thought they called it Black Friday because it's the day that puts the stores' books in the black, financially. Right?

I would no more go shopping on Black Friday than..well, I can't even think of a reason I'd do it. Never, no way, no how. (I am doing the second-to-final edits of TRUTH BE TOLD, and very happy about that. Shopping for better words.)

Gifts? I stink. My problem is, I buy things whenever I see them--oh, that'd be perfect for my agent! Then I forget where I put them.

Conversation in early December:
Hank: What present do you want, honey?
Jonathan: Nothing.
Hank: Me, either. We have everything.
Jonathan: Yeah.

Conversation on Dec 25:
Hank: No presents! Rats!
Jonathan: Yeah, what happened??

It's all very complicated.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I hate shopping and I hate crowds, so the idea of Black Friday fills me with horror and dread. I don't think anyone could pay me to go out and face those sales.

However, I have no issue doing holiday shopping via the internet, because it eliminates the crowd issue. Also, I'm really only shopping for the kiddo, so it's pretty fun — and he still believes in Santa, bless him! 

Noel and I are in savings mode, so we usually give each other funny socks. It's nice because it's not a huge amount of money or hard to do, and you still have a package to open on Christmas Day. Socks I've bought for Noel in the past have had maps of the NYC Subway system, the Tower of London, and Oscar the Grouch.

And Miss Edna will be getting some nice PJs, a new robe, and slippers.

I remember one year the kiddo asked me, "Mommy, what do you want most for Christmas?"
And I replied, "Peace of mind."
And then he said, "OK, I'll give you back a piece of your mind."
If only!

RHYS BOWEN: Hank, I can relate to that dialog so much. John and I go through the same thing. And he's especially bad. If he wants something, he goes out and buys it instantly. Even if it's three days before his birthday. I do like to open presents, but it can be something really small and simple. It's the thought that counts... unless it's a surprise gift of diamonds. Then it's the diamond that counts.

There is nothing in the universe I want or need badly enough to make me fight crowds and stand in line on Black Friday. We spent the morning at the Musical Instrument Museum where the kids played on every kind of instrument for hours, then we are going to a Cowboy place to eat barbecue under the stars--far from the Madding crowds.

LUCY BURDETTE: Ohhhh, barbecue, my favorite! I buy things all along as the year goes by. My mother was a huge believer in fat stockings and I can't quite shake the habit. I find it fun to try to think about what special things people would like. Of course, the closer their taste is to mine, the easier it is! And always books, lots of books. But not on Black Friday...

DEBS:  Hank, you crack me up.  We had a similar conversation one year.

Rick: Let's agree we won't do anything for Christmas this year. We don't need to spend the money.
Me: (Reluctantly.) Well, okay.

Skip to Christmas morning.  Not a single present for me under the tree. Not a single one. I had, of course, bought and wrapped little gifts. Nothing EXPENSIVE, that being the point, right?

Me: (in tears) You didn't get me anything! Not a book or a CD or even a movie!
Rick: (irate) But you said we weren't going to do Christmas!

Translation: A big failure of communication here.  In my view, there should always be something to unwrap or put in a stocking, even if it is a $5 gift from Big Lots (right down the street!)

Conclusion: Now I make a list. (This year it's The Hobbit, extended edition, on Blu-ray. No misunderstanding allowed.)

And I have to confess I fibbed about the "no big gift" thing. Last year Rick surprised me with a Galaxy tablet. I LOVE it. It's sitting right next to me now and I don't know how I ever did without it.  I guess that makes up for the no-gift Christmas...

Susan, do I have SOCKS for you!  A friend gave me these a few years ago, and now I give them to everyone, and buy a couple of new pairs for myself.  They are the best socks in the world, and they are incredibly fun and hold up through countless washings and dryings.  It's Solmate Mismatched Socks.

READERS, what about you?  Did you brave Black Friday?  Is your shopping done or not even contemplated?


  1. If the Christmas shopping is done, then the whole Black Friday thing [which is so not my thing] is meaningless, right????

    Presents are bought and stashed away everywhere, but I am notoriously bad about getting them wrapped, so that [and cards] are always the last-minute things for me. We always do Christmas for all the children . . . the girls may be grown up but they still get a fun gift, not just the "need" or the "want" thing. Of course, they never give me a list, so I always have to guess. This year, the Colorado daughter said, "If I promise we will come to your house for Christmas next year, will you skip presents for us this year?" I said, "Sure will," but I figure the ones I've already bought don't count so I'm sending them anyway --- if I ever get them wrapped . . . .

  2. You ladies don't know what you're missing. Every writer should get out on Black Friday and take a look at the heart of the American economy -- retail trade -- all shapes and sizes, all strata of humans interacting, comparing, pricing, and finally choosing the clothes, toys, kitchen gadgets, and hard goods they will be using in 2014. Insights abound, not to mention the foul language, rude behavior, an occasional smile, and that wonder smell associated with nervous crowded people. I will be sorry when all shopping is done electronically. I could forget what the American public is really like. :)

  3. I used to enjoy shopping after Thanksgiving when I could get into the city. I enjoyed the atmosphere of the season. Now I just work at creating it in my own house—quiet and pleasant not too much in the way of decorations but some nice pieces handed down in Steve's family and my own collection of hand painted bulbs that survived the trip from Boston.

    We do stockings and small things—books, movies, and music. The only gifts I give to friends are books. The only shopping ahead I do is to buy things in other countries that are harder to get here like the UK versions of the Harry Potter audiobooks. I also buy books by authors my friends like at book signings and have some personalized. They have always been my most popular gifts.

  4. Debs, I need those socks! Thanks for the link! How did you know?

  5. I shop on Black Friday, and I've done it nearly every year for at least 20 years. The truth is, while you will run across the occasional pushy shopper or grumpy sales clerk, for the most part, people are nice. There's a "we're all in this together" vibe. I don't go out at 6am because most of the special deals are either loss leaders that I know won't really be available (6 per store, if that), or because I can get a lot of it online for the same price, either that morning or on Thanksgiving day. Instead, yesterday I met my mom, aunt and brother for breakfast at 8am, then hit the stores. I got some good deals, some great ones, gifts for my mom and fabric to make more gifts, as well as a bunch of stuff for myself. The sales staff at Staples were, as always, incredibly helpful and well organized. The lines at JC Penney were well managed. Even JoAnn Fabrics, which is usually a madhouse, was tolerable. I waited in line to cut fabric for 20 minutes, then another 20 minutes to check out. But while we were in line, we chatted, used each other's carts to rest our purchases, and traded sewing tip and ideas. Three people around me are now interested in making my furry infinity scarves. In one crowded parking lot, a man flagged me down to let me know they were leaving their parking space. On the whole, it was festive and fun, and nothing like Black Friday is usually depicted in the news.

  6. I want those socks, too! I also love the fleece ones you can get at REI.

    I also used to get my daughters each a six-pack of undies from Victoria Secrets.

  7. I love to shop, but I hate crowds. No Black Friday shopping for me. I did go to the grocery store and I went to the gym but that was all.

    I have a little "Christmas Corner" and that's where I tuck gifts I pick up during the year for family members - mostly books. Today I'm going to wrap those gifts and we'll see who I might have forgotten.

    Donald and I have agreed to skip gifts for one another this year 'cause we're going to be doing more travelling than usual next year. He and Harley have actually agreed to go to a couple of small cons with me.

    LOVE the socks!!!

  8. Debs, I LOVE THE SOCKS, thank you! Also love that you want the extended edition version of the Hobbit!

    Jack, I agree that Black Friday would be great for writers in that you see all facets of human nature… Still not sure I'm up for it.

  9. Checking out sock lady!

    KAye--what a concept. Putting all the gifts in one place Huh.. NEVER crossed my mind.

    Sandi, I know what you mean..I said exactly that to Jonathan when we were at the grocery on Thanksgiving eve. It was kind of--hilarious and dear.

  10. I also love to shop but I hate Christmas, so I try to get my holiday shopping done early to avoid all of the people and the music and insanely crazy drivers. A second reason: the cost of shipping. Yikes. I used to make treats and put them in containers and send off big boxes of gifts and holiday treats to all over the country. No more. I have caved to the pressure of mailing costs.

    This year, when I went down to visit my parents in the fall, I bought all of my family's gifts at B&N. Wrapped them and left them with my sister to distribute on Christmas Eve. It was weird doing this in October, except that holiday decor was already out.

    Now I can go back to my true self of Christmas curmudgeon.

  11. I have this fantasy of Dickensian Christmas. Tramping through the snow to buy little gifts while the carol singers entertain and there are hot chestnuts to keep the hands warm.

    I went on a Christmas market cruise once that was the closest i'll ever get to those days. But crowds pushing and shoving. No thank you.

  12. No Black Friday shopping for me, although my Elder went with two of her teen boy buddies mid-morning. I've done all my out-of-town shopping, but always save some of my in-town gift buying for December so I can enjoy the decorations and Christmas carols in the outdoor mall near us. I LOVE wrapping and have to be strict with myself about buying too much paper and ribbons!

  13. Hank, you and Jonathan are a fun couple.

    I've gotten further and further away from Christmas madness, thank goodness, and never would have gotten in line on Black Friday, not even if someone pushed a gun to my back. I spent too many years in retailing when I had to be in the store, so I really hate shopping.

    We were just in Miami, celebrating my youngest daughter's doctorate, so we have already had most of our Christmas for the year. I gave the girls checks, and they gave us a cool programmable thermostat, called the Nest, which we have already installed. That is my idea of a great gift: something I would never have bought for myself, but which will reap benefits for years and years.

    My oldest daughter and her family are coming here for Christmas, so we already have all their presents at our house, with more arriving soon. The eight-year old grandson won't find them accidentally. I've ordered most of his gifts online, too: books, novelty headphones for the iPod Touch he's getting from Mom and Dad, and a cool little camera he's going to love.

    The only Black Friday shopping I did yesterday was to two small local businesses, both owned by women. And in both cases I was nearly the only customer in the store,I'm sorry to say.

  14. The socks, ladies, the socks!! (And they have kids sizes, too!) It may seem like a lot of money for a pair of socks, but that's all I wear at home in the winter, and I have a few pairs that are going on four or five years old. I do have a couple of pairs of wool socks for sub-zero weather, but the cotton Solmates are just fine for most winter weather.

    Jack, I'll take your word for it on Black Friday:-) I went to Costco last Saturday and that was enough crowd panic to last me a whole other year!

    Sandi, I have a friend who has shopped with his cousins and aunts on Black Friday every year for as long as you have. They all stay at one house the night before, get up early and make a day of it. It's the highlight of their year. And I'm sure that most of the folks you encounter are fine. But I still wouldn't go to Wal-Mart...

  15. First of all, I can hardly wait to check out the socks on the Sock Lady site. I'm a big fan of socks and sock giving. Thanks, Deb!

    I can count on one finger the number of times I've gone out early on Black Friday. It's probably been 6 or 7 years ago, and I went with my son's girlfriend to stand in line at 4 in the morning in a mall for an X-Box for son. If the girlfriend hadn't have wanted to do it, and, if it hadn't been inside the mall, I wouldn't have done it.

    So, I'm not really a Black Friday (or Thursday now) shopper. That's usually the day that my daughter and her family come for Thanksgiving, so it's still family time for us. This year, yesterday, the group didn't spend the night, so I did go out in the late afternoon to get some Schleich animals ( that were on sale. My granddaughters love them, and we concentrate on the farm animals, including horses, dogs, cats, goats, pigs, cows, etc. There are all kinds of animals and accessories. So, it was one store for 20 or 30 minutes. Not too bad.

    I had already done shopping for the grands, and that's comprises most of my shopping. And, with kids it's always best to shop early if you want specific items. I snagged a new Hunger Games Katniss doll and Effie doll (Catching Fire versions) at Target last week before the movie came out. Of course, there will be books for the grandgirls, too, and I have those picked out. Books for everyone in my house.

    So, no crazy crowds for me, thank you. I can't think of anything I want enough to sit or stand in a line in the cold. I know I'm missing some great prices, but I can live with that.

  16. I love those socks! I have long been a "sock person", and I think I'll check into buying some of those for myself for Christmas. When asked what I'd like as a gift, I mention socks, but everyone thinks I'm joking. I'm not, though!

    I do not like shopping and I especially do my best to avoid the mall. In recent years, I've done a lot of catalog or Internet shopping. Our extended family mostly does little gifts for the adults, the sort of thing that other people would think of as stocking stuffers. The children have always gotten the bigger gifts. The youngest niece is a senior in high school and the youngest nephew, her brother, is in college. They're not little kids any longer. Both of them are fond of B&N gift cards, which delights me. The oldest nephew is married and the father of a twenty month old daughter, so I have an excuse to buy kiddy things again. The rest of us are doing a grab bag, with a $10 limit. We had so much fun with that last year that we're all looking forward to it again this year.

    About Black Friday: I always have to work the day after Thanksgiving, and I would not shop then even if I had the day off. In my office, we take turns taking a vacation day for the day after Thanksgiving. I've taken it off if I had relatives visiting. We did NOT shop, though; we use the time to visit with each other.

    On my lunch break yesterday I stopped into a small, locally owned gift shop on my way back from the bank, and I purchased my gift for the family grab bag. All items in the store are made by women from Third World countries, so I supported the local shop owner AND did my part to help make poor women more self-sufficient. That was probably the first time I ever shopped on Black Friday.

  17. Debs:

    I just checked the website for those socks and discovered that my favorite local gift shop sells them! I'm on my way! I frequently purchase a Christmas gift for myself there, and this year I know what it will be, thanks to you! See how reading JRW every day benefits other people besides me?!

  18. Even if I am one day late, thank you all you talented ladies for your great books! I came over from Factboo (I think?! I'm afraid I tend to just follow these really interesting things 8-)
    Cyber hug, good reading and writing to all of us.
    Jackie Griffey
    (jacjgriffe on Facebook now since there's another one of there. I'm the old one from Arkansas - scroll down to see the great frosting job my Guardian Angel's done on my hair. 8-)

  19. Can you believe I spelled my own name wrong? It's Jackie Griffey LOL
    I'm 86 going on 68 - looks like I didn't quite make it doesn't it.
    Happy Holidays to all and families,

  20. I have just arrived back home from Thanksgiving travel, so I'm late to the party.

    I NEVER shop on Black Friday. But for quite a few years we did go out to a children's movie that afternoon or early evening. That was fun. Sadly, the youngest of the kids is in high school now,so the allure isn't there.

    But our Black Friday was lovely -- we sat around eating appetizers and leftovers from Thanksgiving and watching the Harry Potter marathon. Quite luxurious!

  21. I went to the grocery store on Black Friday. Wonderfully quiet. Our gift-giving holidays sound like Hank's - no gifts, yet we miss the pretties under the tree. :) We usually give the cats new toys, so they have a basket the size of a case of soda full of toys. Richie Rich has less stuff than they do.