Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2006 | Friday is Black Friday for retailers and stay-at-home Friday for me. I toyed briefly with heading to the mall because I’m in the process of updating my wardrobe for winter and thought it may be worth it to get a few deals. But then I imagined myself getting trampled, standing in long lines and screaming out loud while trying to navigate Fashion Valley mall’s absurdly small parking garages. I’ve never shopped Black Friday before and I’m not going to start now just to save a few bucks.

I always thought the term Black Friday referred to the worst of our souls: that dark, bleak place where we store our greed, vanity and lack of consideration until we need it to beat 300 other people in race for a video game.

They should rename it Bloody Friday for all the injuries that occur year after year only to be forgotten the next year when the insanity begins anew.

But do you know that Black Friday actually refers to the fact that the day after Thanksgiving is a day when retailers can finally count on turning a profit, bringing their accounts from the red into the black? They turn that profit by whipping consumers into a discount delirium, which is why you should stay home. Do you really think there won’t be more deals? Do you really think Sony won’t have plenty of PlayStation 3s in January?

Just last week, violence erupted at stores across the country after hundreds of people camped out for days to be one of the first to buy Sony’s state-of-the-art video game system for $500. Some were parents “doing it for the kids,” while others were gamers who take misplaced pride in being one of the first to have the new system, and others were low-level entrepreneurs planning to resell the consoles on eBay for a profit. According to news reports, many of them resold for nearly $3,000.

I’m not a video game person so I don’t get the fuss over the new PlayStation, but I can honestly say there isn’t a single consumer product I would stand in line for for more than 10 minutes. Not one. If only the PlayStation 3 frenzy stopped at long lines. Instead a 21-year old man was shot in Connecticut, a 26-year old man was pepper sprayed and robbed of two consoles in Orange County and riots erupted everywhere, causing at least one Wal-Mart to shut down to contain the violence. All this for a video game. Can you feel the spirit of the season yet?

While I certainly blame individuals for their own behavior, I put a lot of the blame for these incidents on the retailers themselves. Their advertisements don’t say, “Bring pepper spray and a gun because you may have to fight 300 people vying for 100 consoles,” but the retailers and their suppliers create the frenzy with “Midnight Madness” sales and hype about limited supplies.

Sony began selling its PlayStation 3 at midnight Nov. 17. Why? There is no reason except that “Midnight Madness” just sounds like an exclusive party and a fun way to score a great deal on expensive electronics. It’s marketing frenzy 101.

Sony has blamed a supply shortage of the PlayStation 3 on unexpected parts shortages. Maybe it’s true, but I have a hard time believing that a company like Sony can’t produce such a highly anticipated product in quantities sufficient to meet demand. It’s just too convenient that there’s a shortage of the hottest toy on the shelves five weeks before Christmas. This is all part of the hype game. Don’t fall for it.

According to Consumer Reports recently released “Black Friday Survival Guide,” an estimated 63 million Americans will hit the malls the day after Thanksgiving, but they won’t necessarily score better deals than shoppers who wait. Consumer Reports says retailers are already cutting prices by as much as 50 percent and offering discounts for shopping during slow periods such as the middle of a weekday.

It’s pretty clear that you don’t have to shop Black Friday to save money, so if you’re still going there must be some sick side of you that just loves to elbow people. You have probably already been surfing through the many websites like www.bfads.net and www.gottadeal.com that leak store circulars about Black Friday specials before they run in the newspapers or on retail websites.

To combat the leaks, Wal-Mart plans to unveil a few extra specials on Thanksgiving Day. “After everyone finishes with the meal, we’re going to use walmart.com as a channel to unveil special offers that nobody has visibility to yet,” said Wal-Mart’s chief marketing officer John Fleming at a conference last week with analysts.

I can just see someone sneaking away from the table to check walmart.com. That’s beautiful.

Catherine MacRae Hockmuth is a free-lance writer living in Point Loma. Please contact her directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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