Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 9, 2012

The morning after


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---- — The Friday after Thanksgiving is an ideal day for relaxation. The greasy roasting pan has been scrubbed, dishes washed and put back on the cupboard shelves and the refrigerator is loaded with leftovers. For some reason, they always taste better the second time around.

This year, it was unusually warm on Thanksgiving. In many parts of northern Michigan, long-standing high-temperature records were shattered. Then the very next day, the bottom fell out of the thermometer and we were back to normal; cold and windy.

I like to build a fire in the fireplace the day following Thanksgiving and relax by the warmth of the hearth, read a book or watch TV and make repeat visits to the fridge to build turkey sandwiches. It's a good day to call out-of-town relatives to hear how their dinner turned out or just to catch up on what is going on in their lives. That Friday is also a great day to read the Thursday newspaper and scan the mountain of Black Friday ads. This appeared to be an exceptional year for advertising inserts.

While sorting through the ads, I began to think about the concept of Black Friday. Theoretically, the day marks the point in the year when retailers transition from operating in the "red" to turning a profit and going into the "black."

Why red and why black? Long before computers, accountants kept their records in books and the entries were made by hand using pen and ink. Positive numbers were recorded in black ink and negative numbers or losses were recorded in red ink. Hence, operating in the "black" meant that the business was showing a profit and running in the "red" indicated the operation was losing money.

Profit for a company is a good thing. Without profit, the company and the jobs it created will eventually disappear. The apparent demise of Hostess and their beloved Twinkies and Ding Dongs is a recent example of what can happen to a company that fails to remain profitable.

I'm sure there are many store owners and employees who would much rather spend the Friday after Thanksgiving at home with their family than go to work at midnight and deal with the approaching hoard of bargain hunters. Competition in the retail industry is fierce and lost sales are difficult to recoup. To keep their sales figures up and their results in the black, it is imperative that retailers participate in the post-Thanksgiving charge of bargain-thirsty shoppers.

Most of the customers act like well-behaved, law-abiding citizens who actually enjoy their midnight ride behind a shopping cart. As taken from a Clint Eastwood movie, I call these shoppers the "Good." Then come the rest — the "Bad and the Ugly." They are the ones predictably featured on the Saturday night network news.

This year was not unlike previous years. Two people were shot in an argument over a parking space in Los Angeles. Employees were trampled in a Florida location by the door-busting crowd. Customers frequently grab items in limited supply out of other shoppers' baskets. The examples go on and on, but you get the idea. It's chaotic mob action.

Considering the holiday for which they are shopping, their behavior does not reflect "the reason for the season."

Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at edhungness@yahoo.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.