I don't get it. Watching the news this morning featuring people camped out already at Best Buy... for Black Friday, I wondered aloud: WTF? Why would someone with a job to take vacation (or unpaid time off) to camp out on a patch of concrete for days and nights for the prospect of snagging an XBox of other mass-produced must-have gadget? Several of the people in line gushed that it was soooo worth it for the deals. One bubbly young woman explained that, far from detracting from her time with family, this Thanksgiving week suburban big-box-store campout was bringing her family together, as she'd invited the rest of them to join her... and they took her up on the offer.
While these well-heeled and well-fed shopper-campers hang out in their lawn chairs texting their friends, downloading music, chatting with fellow shoppers, and sipping their Starbucks coffee, millions of Americans spend night after night outdoors with no prospect of snagging a hot meal or a shower the following morning, much less a cool must-have gift.
Somewhere in a top-floor suite on Madison Avenue, marketing company executives must be laughing - all the way to the bank - at their ability to control the minds of witless consumers, convincing them that, if they miss this once-in-a-
weekend lifetime chance to buy that special gift for their kid or spouse, it will be The End Of The World. Do you really want to be "that parent" who has to explain to their heartbroken kid that you couldn't be bothered to take a week off from work to get them their dream gift? Of course not! Now grab your gear and get your ass out to the comfy suburban shopping campout.
Manufacturers, who could easily churn out more gadgets (and more profits) by planning throughout the year, instead roll out their new models and create artificial holiday shortages and hype that lead - literally - to fatalities as shoppers trample one another to beat out their neighbors so that their days-long quest will not be in vain. Retailers, apoplectic at the thought of unspent dollars, are trying to wrench their customers away from the Thanksgiving table to begin spending a day sooner. Consumers have swapped their usual holiday eggnog and cocoa for this corporate Kool-Aid.
Meanwhile, as our homeless spend their November nights on sidewalks and under bridges wondering how they'll survive the winter or where they'll get their next meal, the suburban "faux homeless" who've made the Best Buy parking lot their tent city entertain one another with Tweets about their clever suburban shopping assault preparations, and the uber-cool electronic rewards that await them.
No, camping out on a lawn chair in a Snuggie with your friends watching videos on your iPad and having pizzas delivered to your little encampment is absolutely nothing like being homeless. But if anyone in that long line of craven consumers imagines for one nanosecond that it is like being homeless, and that being homeless isn't really all that bad, my head will explode.