It's Black Friday, especially for all you married men

I was curious to know how today came to be known as Black Friday, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia, largely written by readers), the busiest shopping day of the year is called Black Friday because it generates black ink in the accounting books of retail stores. You know, profits.

But I hardly associate Black Friday with a good day in business. As the Wikipedia writer thoughtfully pointed out, Black Friday is better known as the day the stock market crashed in 1929 and people started throwing themselves out of windows. Not something with which I would want to be associated as a retail store in the holiday season.

Some stores, therefore, have tried to get the world to start calling it Green Friday, as in money, but that sounds too much like some kind of environmental event. Or it could be confused with Green Day, which is a rock band that named itself after a 24-hour pot-smoking binge.

Same problem with Happy Friday. It strikes me as something a bar has when it offers two-for-one drinks. And any time you refer to them as Happy Days, it conjures up pictures of Fonzie and Richie Cunningham.

Then there are the cynics who refer to today as "Buy Nothing Day," because apparently there are more people out walking off their Thanksgiving turkey dinners than actually plunking down cash for Christmas presents.

The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the season in terms of customer traffic. The Saturday before Christmas is the day all those people actually part with their cash, making it the No. 1 sales day nationally.

It seems obvious to me that many of those people wandering around stores not buying anything are married men. We go out for the entertainment value, but mainly to keep an eye on the credit cards. Not that it does any good. But like most activities of the modern married male, it makes us feel better to have the illusion that we have some influence in day-to-day matters.

Going out on Black Green Buy Nothing Friday without a strategy, however, can become uncomfortable - especially if you're not a veteran browser. Herewith I offer a few tips for surviving the day:

n Stores that offer no service whatsoever are a breeze, and there are plenty of those to be found these days. You can wander up and down aisles at your leisure inspecting gadgets and reading labels to your heart's content.

However, there are still a few stores with helpful salespeople. As soon as they spot you wandering aimlessly, they come up and ask if they can help you to find something. When you say "No, thanks" or "Just looking" they are content to go about their jobs, usually offering "If you need any help, just ask."

But then there are the aggressively helpful salespeople, who may be on commission or too much caffeine. Actually, I'm pretty sure they're being trained this way because it's part of the store's "corporate culture."

They greet you as soon as you walk through the door. They're eager to show you the big display at the front of the store - as if you didn't have to walk around it anyway - and are bubbling with rehearsed sales pitches.

You can fend off one or two, but as you venture deeper into the store they begin to come at you in waves. You must counter each one with a "No, I'm fine all by myself here" until you start getting a little testy. At least that's the way I am after saying for the fifth or sixth time that I'm probably capable of walking up and down the aisles all by myself, thank you very much.

One of the reasons I grow impatient is that occasionally I do pause to ask them a question. Most of the time, they're clueless. But they're very cheerfully clueless.

Here's my favorite: "No, we don't carry that item, but I'd be glad to order it for you." Look, buddy, if I wanted it ordered I would have just gone shopping on the Internet and had it delivered to my house for cheaper than you sell it anyway. But thanks for asking.

This summer, though, a clerk at Gottschalk's searched the store's inventory and discovered it was out of the color of dishes I wanted to buy for my wife. So she called three other Gottschalk's stores until she found the item, had them ship it to my house and charge my credit card.

That's how you make a sale.

Back to the advice:

n Wear sunglasses. Especially in the bright, giant megastores like Wal-Mart, I find this to be a good way to keep me from getting grumpy during extended visits. It may have something to do with the fluorescent lights, or it may just be that I can avoid eye contact with clerks and bratty kids.

n Find a good place to sit. You're going to need it.

The best thing you can do is locate a place with multiple seats, which eventually will be filled by guys like yourself who are out "shopping." Then you can spend the time talking about fishing or the weather or something.

n Be grateful that Black Friday comes only once a year.

n Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at or 881-1221.


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