mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Buy stuff on black friday, piss off this guy...

Via The Consumerist (the website that drives me nuts but that I can't keep away from) comes this San Francisco Gate editorial on why Black Friday is evil and you are a disgusting pig if you think otherwise.

As frequent mad anthony readers will know, I decided to sit out the brick and mortar shopping part of this year's Black Friday sales (except for a quick trip to Radio Shack to buy their $5 cordless soldering iron, electing to do most of my shopping online. But as someone who has done Black Friday in years past - I spent 6 hours in front of Circuit City last year - and who regularly shops at those evil chain stores that he lambasts - I find myself with a strange desire to kick Mark Munsford in the nuts. Or at least to buy some Canadian-mined shale oil, just to pis him off.

It annoys me when I read columns like this, because this guy has a job in the media and I write for this blog that a couple of my friends read. I mean, I'm not the world's greatest writer, but at least I've never written this:

I don't even know what Kohl's is. I'm guessing some sort of mass-crap superstore, like Best Buy or Target or T.J. Maxx or a weird amalgam of all of those and it doesn't really matter because last Friday they opened at 4 a.m. for the mad rush of Black Friday shoppers, because if there's one thing you want to do when your body is groggy and sleep tugs at your heart and your dreams have turned vacant and sad, it's grope cheap waffle makers before sunrise.

I actually do know what a Kohl's is, because I'm one of those self-hating capitalists who seeks to find meaning in discount flat-panel TV's. It's a mid-level department store (where I've actually gotten some decent deals, including a $2 pair of sneakers). I have no desire to shop at one at 4 in the morning, but if someone does, I don't think that makes them stupid, or indicates a lack of meaning in their lives. But I do think if you are going to write a column, even an editorial, that touches on the subject, you could at least spend the 30 seconds to research them - I mean, they do have a website.

The meat of the column doesn't deal with that, though. It deals with how some friend of the author suggests that high gas prices will kill off Wal-Mart, because people won't drive to Wal-mart because they can't afford gas, and they will shop at mom and pop shops instead. Our author disagrees, because instead we are going to destroy Canada for shale oil, and isn't that too bad, because boy he'd like to kill Wal-Mart.

Of course we should kill Wal-Mart. I mean, God forbid people actually be able to shop at the stores they want to. Never mind that millions of people voluntarily choose to shop at Wal-Mart, which would suggest that Wal-Mart sells them things that they want at prices they are willing to pay. But they are just the dumb proles who shop at shitty chain stores, and obviously they can't think for themselves.

But even ignoring the fact that Mark Munsford thinks he's better than you because he doesn't shop at Wal-Mart, and setting aside the shale-oil thing for a second, let's look at the "high oil prices will kill Wal-Mart" thing. It's funny, because I was just watching "The Wall Street Journal Report" a few days ago (with money honey Maria Bartiromo) which predicted the opposite - since the Wal-Marts and Targets of the world offer one-stop shopping, they will do better with high oil prices, since people can buy all their stuff in one place instead of going to a bunch of different stores.

But I think the theory is wrong for two bigger reasons - there aren't really any mom and pop shops left to do shopping at, and often chain stores are closer than those stores anyway. I live in White Marsh, MD - a place specifically mentioned in this book as a place where malls are the downtown, because there never was a downtown. Target and Wal-Mart are closer to me than any independently owned store. And even in places that do have a downtown, there aren't a lot of places to buy the things people need. My parents live in a small town in NJ, population ~7500. They have a main street, but it's full of restaurants and antique stores and small specialty shops - not the kind of places you can buy groceries, clothes, tools, and everything else like you can at Wal-Mart or Target.

I heard (I think also on the WSJ report) that fuel costs make up 3% of the average budget - so it's unlikely to make a huge impact on spending. And even so, for many people the bulk of their gas usage isn't shopping, it's commuting. I only go shopping every couple days, and it's usually combined with other trips. I've got to go to work 5 days a week (or more), and it's a whole lot further away than Target - and I would guess I'm not unique in that regard.

And about shale oil - I think it's great. I'll admit to not being an expert on it's environmental effects, but I'm going to guess that oil drilling in the Middle East probably isn't great for the environment there either. And I bet the government of Canada is more likely to step in to fix or prevent environmental problems than the government of Saudi Arabia. More importantly, I would much rather buy my oil from Canada than from the middle east. Sure, Canadians might have their silly national health care and far more people speaking French than I am really comfortable with, but they have way fewer Islamic fundamentalists than the Mideast.


At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Anthony, but if you live in White Marsh, you must change the tagline of your blog, in that you are now a "former" Baltimoron. I should know, hon.

But seriously, loved your article. Columnists who are too elite to have heard of Kohls shouldn't be writing editorials blasting Black Friday. That is the basic point of your article, I think, and one that was well made.

As for all those useless predictions, they will soon be forgotten. As you clearly stated, people shop and will continue to shop at Wal*Mart because it is there. In a capitalist society, that's their choice. Viva la difference!

I wish the socialists would all move to Canada, or better yet, Venezuela, where they would all be so much happier. Just leave the rest of us alone! If Americans want cheap waffle irons at 4:00 a.m., then by george, we shall have them!

Ain't America just grand?


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