The desperation of Black Friday

Sales numbers may have broken records, but a Wal-Mart waffle-maker riot warns against optimism VIDEO

Topics: Black Friday,

The desperation of Black FridayShoppers wait in line for a Framingham, Mass., Target store to open on "Black Friday." (Credit: Reuters/Adam Hunger)

If we are willing to believe the preliminary reports from retailers, Black Friday was a resounding success. Shoppers swarmed stores, both online and off, to take advantage of midnight sales and huge discounts. For those predisposed to seek omens for the future from the entrails of this carnage, there is an obvious temptation for hopeful optimism. The Christmas shopping season may have started off with a record bang — could our long national economic quagmire be over?

But before attempting to answer that question in any detail, let’s review the video from a Wal-Mart near Little Rock, Ark., in which shoppers exploded into what can only be called a riot as they shoved each other out of the way in a frenzy to grab $2 waffle-makers.

That is not a portrait of healthy economic activity. That is desperation, pure and simple. The story of the woman who sprayed her fellow Xbox shoppers with pepper spray is bad enough, but nothing quite captures what’s wrong with Black Friday better than this Lord of the Flies-style barbaric waffle-maker anarchy.

For the economy in general, it’s probably a good thing to register sales numbers on Black Friday that show growth over last year. But that certainly doesn’t mean that happy days are here again, or even that we’re headed for a bang-up Christmas season. When shoppers are so desperate to take advantage of sales that they line up at midnight on Thanksgiving, that’s not a sign that Keynesian animal spirits are ready to rock and roll, but instead is yet more proof that money is tight, and Americans are stretching every dollar to the max.

It seems quite likely that many of the dollars spent over the Thanksgiving weekend on sales-discounted items are dollars that now won’t be spent over the rest of the holiday shopping period. A detailed look inside the numbers by Yahoo’s Daniel Gross also suggests that the news still isn’t that good for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, who have to resort to ever more desperate strategies to attract consumers away from the convenience of online shopping.

We’ll know a lot more about the current state of the U.S. economy at the end of this week, after fully digesting another month of new home sales, car sales, and jobs figures. Right now, the only thing we know for sure, after Thanksgiving, is that deep discounted sales are prompting Americans to go nuts. Happy holidays, everyone!

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>