The cultural behemoth of North American practices continues to run amok in Britain. Not content with giving us meaningless cliches like "Out of left field", "touching base" and "ballpark" when "Behind silly mid-off", "making one's ground" and "pitch" are far superior, and foisting pumpkins and trick-or-treat on us at Halloween when kids should be either doing their homework or slumped in front of the telly but not ringing the bells on their utterly uninterested neighbours' doors [The neighbours are the ones uninterested, their doors are not known to express opinions, right?: Ed] we now have the totally made-up and pretend commercial frenzy known as Black Friday.
We are supposed to believe that on this day, just after Thanksgiving [Whatever that is: Ed] and poised at the start of the Xmas hysteria, the volume of retail sales is such that retailers whose financial years end in December will at last show a net profit for the year to date, hence are now "in the black" as those of us who still use quill pens dipped in different colour inks to record such matters in our ledgers will be well aware. This may or may not be true for some retailers. But this day is now associated with seemingly high discounts and apparent amazing bargains leading to overnight queues, crowded stores, frantic buying, fist-fights over the counters and scenes of weary police hunkered down by their cruisers shaking their heads in despair and radioing in for reinforcements. And that's just at Asda in Wembley (not far from where I used to live).Who knows what is happening in the less refined parts of our country?
It defies belief that at a time when a business is turning a profit it should cut prices and kill its trading margins. Therefore I don't believe it. They simply raise prices during the dead months of the late summer in order then to proclaim fake discounts and sell the stuff at the prices they had planned all along. Indeed, an article in today's Guardian shows exactly this strategy at work at Argos where apparently artificial Xmas trees are at "half-price" compared to the price in August. Who the hell buys a Xmas tree in August? Apart from, obviously, people setting out on expeditions up the Amazon or to the South Pole; they will have their cabin trunks stuffed full of plum pudding, tins of ginger biscuits, whole wheels of Stilton and bottles of vintage port. And a full range of decorations, crackers, silly hats and board games for we are British, goddammit, and standards must be maintained. But leaving them aside, which I do with some reluctance, there is surely nobody else who (in August, let me remind you, not the dark days of late November) would flip through the hefty Argos catalogue, stop at the page showing baubles, illuminated angels and tinselly trees and think "Umm, that's nice, just what we need...". If you happen to be one, do let me know and I'll be happy to do a brief interview.
Anyway, Mrs Commuter and I shopped normally yesterday, as we usually do on a Friday, at our local supermarket where all was calm and ordered. A rather sad bin near the door held their "Black Friday" offers - a really cheap and nasty looking radio and some headphones whose sole selling point seemed to be that they distorted the bass. There was no queue. No punch-ups. No pensioners grimly elbowing each other out of the way. We don't do things like that in beautiful Ruislip. Not yet, anyway.