The term "Black Friday" is a bit of retail-industry jargon that has lately become entrenched in the popular culture. It refers, of course, to the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza, a brutal day on which shopping sheep run, push, punch and stampede to grab loss-leader discounts.
Black Friday is not the biggest shopping day of the year -- that is usually the Saturday before Christmas -- but retailers love the gimmick for its symbology: Black Friday turns commerce into an event, a national ritual, and, in the process, rings a lot of cash registers.
Which explains "Cyber Monday," the moniker that retailers are pushing to apply to today, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Shop.org, the trade group representing online shops, coined the term in 2005, and the group now says that both retailers and shoppers are getting into the day's Web-shopping spirit.
Feel a need to shop online today? Don't worry, that's normal, the online retailers want you to know. Cyber Monday is for buying!
Shop.org says that a survey it commissioned shows that 72 million Americans plan to shop online today, up from 60 million last year. Nearly three quarters of Shop.org's member companies also plan to offer special promotions today.
While this is unlikely to be the biggest online shopping day of the year -- analysts say that'll be Dec. 10, two weeks before Christmas -- it's still a huge day, with Web stores ringing in 12 percent of the $39 billion they expect in online revenues this year. (Offline stores usually sell about 15 percent of their holiday goods on Black Friday.)
A large number of Americans will be shopping from work, the trade group says. Run these numbers by your boss if she gives you any guff for being late on accounts receivable: Half of all office workers with Internet access say they'll be going online to shop from the cubicle this season.
One is tempted to recoil at the fraudulence surrounding this day, at the picture of a nation reaching for its credit cards just because corporations invented yet another pseudo-holiday for us to celebrate.
But to do so would be churlish. So Cyber Monday is phony, so the retailers just want to make money, so commerce is ruining the nation and the world. Granted, all of it.
But hey, you do need stuff for your loved ones and even just your liked ones, right? You are planning to shop for the holidays, you do feel pressed for time, you do want good deals, and you are looking to avoid the offline rush, yes? So, retailing-jargon notwithstanding, why not shop today?
As Dealhack and Slickdeals point out, you really can get some good discounts today: There are 29 DVD titles on sale at Best Buy for $4 each. You can get 20 percent off your purchase when you use Paypal at certain online stores. Newegg has huge discounts on a variety of electronics. You can get an XBox 360 Premium and three games for $399 at Wal-Mart.
And there are dozens more promotions available at cybermonday.com, a site set up by the retailers themselves.
You hate Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can't stand that businesses now run the holidays. Good for you. Now get shopping.
[Flickr picture by richardmasoner]