Grey Matters

I am here to tell you, I love me a bargain. As such, Black Friday was revered as the Holy Grail of bargain shopping. I awaited the Thanksgiving Day newspaper, hands quaking with excitement, and devoured the meaty Black Friday inserts like they were the Thanksgiving meal itself. I let the kids circle wish list items, I compared prices and mapped out a pre-dawn trek to get Christmas commercialism started right. 

Ah, the good old days … 

Now, the Black Friday teasers and pre-pre-pre-sales started right after Halloween. Black Friday deals are just one click away—TODAY—when we should still be sorting our trick-or-treat stash. And that makes me nervous. I mean, how do I know if this is the best bargain or if it is really the penultimate sale and the real value is coming on the actual Black Friday? Or God forbid—Cyber Monday? 

The final dagger for this shopaholic was the term “Grey Thursday.” It has me questioning everything I thought I knew about the shameless pursuit of a deal. 

Grey Thursday refers to the murky business of opening stores on Thanksgiving Day instead of waiting until the stroke of midnight as was customary. This new practice has created a great divide, pitting those that are traditionalists against those that say, “Bring it on …”

 And I am squarely in the traditionalist camp. 

After all, years of developing rituals and customs deserve respect. Things like family, love and togetherness should be the focus. What is the world coming to when a sacred day is treated like an afterthought? 

No, I am not talking about Thanksgiving getting the shaft. … I am referring to Black Friday. 

Black Friday was a perfectly respectable day that let me combine my love of my family and giving together with my love of a bargain— and partake in that beautiful sentiment with hordes of strangers who share my same belief system. I mean, nothing says love and togetherness like standing in a line that snakes down the aisles to pay 60 percent off retail value to gift someone near and dear. 

I know, you’re getting teary-eyed just picturing it. 

But now my high holiday is ruined. I am left with the daunting choice of either missing out on some bargains by not shopping on Thanksgiving or binging on bargains for a full 24 hours to capture every store opening and early bird special. Preserving the sanctity of Black Friday is looking exhausting and pretty bleak. 

In reality, the origins of Black Friday are indeed fairly dark. The term was initially used to describe the crash of the gold market in 1869. Then, in the 1950s, the city of Philadelphia saw a tremendous influx of visitors in advance of the Army vs Navy game. The good news was that the crowds came to spend money, but the police found themselves outmanned and unable to stop the shoplifters who took advantage of the chaos. Thus, the second incarnation of the term which would stick until the city attempted to make the term more synonymous with the City of Brotherly Love. So, they promoted the idea that “black” referred to a profitable turn for retailers on that Friday heading into the holiday season and it became the norm. 

It took decades to restore the dignity of the phrase and now it is all in jeopardy. It may be a grey area to retailers, but it is clear to me. I am standing strong and foregoing the turkey day trot to the mall to focus on my pie à la mode instead. It turns out that while I love a bargain, I love tradition more and savoring that seems like a pretty big deal to me.