Black Friday, Cyber Monday

And it is written that in the kingdom of Great Britain, people will shop until they drop. And so, my friends, we come to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It’s that time of year again. The last weekend in November, when thoughts have already turned to Christmas. Puddings and cakes have been made, invitations issued and stars made!dec 2015 43

And of course lists have been written, deleted and rewritten. In our case six different What’s App groups have been reopened after a ten month holiday. One called ‘Christmas lists’ (where each of us notes our requests) then five groups each with one person’s name on it (which the named person can’t get into, but everyone else can discuss what they’re buying that person). It may sound complicated but it’s not, and it works really well. I imagine that plenty of other people do the same thing (?) either with apps like this or with paper and pen.

But clearly I’m wrong and we need help, because we’re all too confused to plan our shopping sensibly and buy wisely. We’re much better off waiting until four weeks before Christmas (…hang on, because we’ve forgotten about it? Christmas – what’s that?…Oh wait, I remember something like it last year…) and suddenly realising we need to rush out and buy stuff. And thanks be to God and the combined might of the retail sector, they’ve given us a day especially for it! It’s called Black Friday and it’s when we can get really good bargains! All we have to do is trek into the town or out-of-town shopping cathedral of our choice, wait patiently in the queue of cars occupied by other happy, smiling folk, then battle through hordes of less happy, scowling people-shaped obstacles, grabbing whatever we can from piles of huge, damned awkward cardboard boxes. Almost done! Just get to the till, hand over a piece of plastic and then do it all again four or five or six times. Then back to the car. Simple.

Of course there’s an even easier option and that’s to wait another three days for Cyber Monday. A triumph for the interwebnetcyberthingy companies like Amazon and Notonthehighstreet but also the interwebnetcyberthingy divisions of mainstream shops. You can do all your shopping at the click of a mouse then sit back in the comfort of your own home and await the postman or DPD delivery driver.

I’m not sure when the notion of Black Friday and then Cyber Monday were foisted on us. I heard someone on TV the other day say ‘Black Friday’ was a phrase that came about in the 19th century during the slave trade to America, because Friday was the day when most slave markets were held. It’s the first time I’ve come across it and if it’s true it’s a bit of a problem for the marketing geniuses and image consultants who must have racked their brains for five whole minutes over skinny lattes to come up with a snappy way to persuade the rest of us that this amazing shopping opportunity was the best thing ever. It’s the sort of strategy that would have earned Apprentice Gold Stars from Alan Sugar.

They missed a trick though, because they forgot that Saturday and Sunday come in between Friday and Monday – though I’ve noticed some adverts talking about ‘Black Friday Weekend’ today. Is it just me or is there something wrong with that title?

Much, much better is the fact that yesterday a group of a hundred or so small bookshops throughout the UK got together to stage Civilised Saturday. An alternative to the havoc being caused by major retailers, across the country independent bookshops were providing tea & cakes, mulled wine & mince pies or even hand massages. In our case it involved the local store (Bookish of Crickhowell) offering prosecco and canapes, along with book signings by various authors. As well as the great atmosphere at Bookish and the other shops on the High Street, the Christmas lights were switched on, Santa arrived and there were Christmas carols and hand-bell ringing. And on a dark, wet afternoon when a lot of people would normally choose to stay at home, they didn’t – instead they enjoyed a warm, festive spirit that’s not easy to find in crowded city centres or shopping malls.

So forget Black Friday Weekend, Saturday has now been claimed for those of us who want to opt out of the annual feeding frenzy. That just leaves Sunday. Unfortunately the weather has remained pretty miserable and so I’ve designated this Stormy Sunday. I didn’t need to consult a marketing agency to come up with the name or swallow down pints of Starbucks coffee either! All I needed was a cup of tea, a toasted cheese & tomato sandwich and a glance out of the window. Cheap, or what?jan 2016 15

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