Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

My oldest brother sent an email wishing his siblings a relaxing day. Each year we rent a log splitter for one day and split the pile of wood we've collected since the last rental. Today was that day.

After eight hours with the machine, I'm physically spent, but I'm relaxed. The exercise took me away from both my professional writing and piano practicing. I had to stay alert to move the wood and operate the machine, but otherwise my mind wandered freely and unfettered. I didn't worry about the credit troubles of Dubai, whether folks were trampling each other to death for store bargains, or about people spending money on things others don't want.

George F. Will's column yesterday foresaw another "huge, value destroying hurricane" beginning today -- that is, the annual Christmas buying binge that instantly destroys billions of dollars of value. Referring to Joel Waldfogel's book, Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays, he claims that the gifts people buy for other people are usually poorly matched to their preferences. What the gift recipients would be willing to pay for the gifts is less than the givers paid. That difference is lost value -- estimated by Waldfogel at $12 billion in the 2007 Christmas season. Interesting, according to Will, data from 1919 shows that Christmas sales as a share of the economy are about half as large today as they once were. Cheers!

Why is today called "Black Friday?" Wikipedia offers two explanations. Some say it originated in Philadelphia, where the police used the term to describe the traffic resulting from millions going shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Merchants and the media use it to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers go from being in the red to being in the black.

I didn't worry about Black Friday, even though I was among the shoppers at the Lexington Wal-Mart at 7:45 this morning. (Minutes later, I was the only customer at Green Valley Rentals.) All I spent was about $7 on a 2" ball trailer hitch, so I zipped through a self-service lane while others waited nearby with loaded carts. Knowing all those people were juicing up our economy eased my mind until Virginia whispered, "Did you notice all of them are using credit cards?"

"Oh shush," said I. "Most likely, they're taking advantage of their free-ride period. They'll pay everything off in 30 days."

Cool. I relaxed today.

1 comment:

  1. So who is Virginia anyway? Yes, I've finally looked. My e-mail inbox was so overwhelmed when you wrote that looking at a blog was a hopeless dream. I'm trying to empty it this weekend, although I'm sure that will be somewhat in vain. Hope you enjoyed yesterday! I ate with mom at Trinity Oaks, laughed some, but also bemoaned her waning memory. Still she's safe, enjoys the food, and I visit three times a week; she can't be too bad off!