We’re seeing a very rare media trend this fall. Story after story in the style, living, home and even business sections of newspapers and websites are advising people to imitate individuals who aren’t famous and don’t earn a lot of money, maybe $30,000 to $57,000 a year.
The envied group we’re supposed to imitate consists of professional shoppers. At least that’s the conclusion I draw from typing “Black Friday shopping tips” in the Google search box. Of the 1.24 million results that come up, the first few pages are filled with articles that are going to teach us how to “shop like a pro,” by which the writers must mean a professional shopper, those low-paid gofers of party planners, marketing departments and rich folk.
Here is a sampling of articles in which we can learn how to “shop like a pro”:
- “How to Shop on Black Friday Like a Pro” lays out three steps and three tips for shopping like a pro the day after Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the writer and editor are less than pros and make a number of irritating syntactical errors, such as writing “your” instead of “you’re.”
- “Shop Black Friday Like a Pro” starts with the premise that the readers—like the writer—love to shop for the Holidays.
- “12 tips for shopping Black Friday like a pro” is a graduate seminar in how to shop during the Holidays. The last tip however, places a dark cloud on the whole process (I write “process,” since when there are 12 steps, there must be a “process“): “Plan a nice brunch or other social gathering at the end of your trip, so you’ll have something to look forward to.” Wait a second. If, as the article claims earlier, you are so excited about shopping that you “are already salivating,” why do you need something to which to look forward? Maybe professional shoppers are supposed to end their work days with a snack, kind of like reverse carbo-loading.
- “5 Steps to Shopping Black Friday Like a Pro” advises people to have a Holiday shopping strategy.
- “Black Friday Survival Guide – How to Shop Like a Pro” compares Black Friday to the Superbowl, but warns that on the “potentially dangerous and stressful day” you better learn how to shop like a pro. Football serves as the appropriate analogy for the grim picture of waiting on line, running towards products and pushing and shoving painted by the author.
- “3 Ways to Shop Black Friday Like a Pro” boils it down to the essentials of planning your route and coordinating with friends, so that one of you shops for certain items while the other looks for other things.
Those who aren’t satisfied merely to achieve a professional status, though, may prefer “How to win Black Friday 2013: Tips from a master.” The article never tells what it means to win, but if there are three things I know about 21st century America it’s:
- We like to shop
- Winning is fun
- We like to aspire to the pinnacle, such as the pinnacle of shopping professionalism, that exalted point at which others laud you as a “master.”
The “shop like a pro” theme doesn’t exhaust the ways in which writers are giving us advice for Black Friday. You can find tips, steps, ways, lessons, strategies, tactics and ideas in any quantity you like: 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 or 20. There are even 10 issues worth discussing in the eternal debate between shopping in person on Black Friday or online on Cyber Monday. Don’t worry—there are advantages to each. That’s the great thing about America—you’re doing okay, as long as you’re shopping.
Interestingly enough, no one mentions products much in their advice on shopping. There are occasional references to tablets and video games, but mostly the products don’t matter—it’s all about the act of buying.
Traditionalists shouldn’t beware just yet. My Google News search of “Thanksgiving” yielded 158 million stories, as opposed to a mere 136 million for “Black Friday.” If we measure significance by number of Google hits, Thanksgiving is still the top Holiday of the last week of November. There are many how-to-articles for Thanksgiving, too—how to roast a turkey, how to make a turducken, how to make gravy, how to plan a vegetarian Thanksgiving, how to address family disputes, how to decorate in a festive way. It all seems mundane and old-fashioned, though, compared to the thrilling rapture of pulling a credit card out of a wallet and handing it to a cashier.
But give it time. Black Friday is relatively new as a holiday. It is still developing its traditions and its history. In the future, perhaps, certain food will become associated with Black Friday, like Mexican food with the Superbowl (My money is on hot turkey tacos). People will start telling stories of Black Friday the way they remember it in the good old days. The year Mom wrestled a PlayStation away from a 400-pound man. The year we roasted turkey on the portable grill in the Wal-Mart parking lot. And sooner or later, someone is going to figure out that like most other American holidays, the best way to celebrate Black Friday is to buy something for someone and give it to them. Yes, I can see the glorious day—glorious for retailers—when people exchange presents for Black Friday. And at that point, we’ll have to create a new holiday—the one on which we shop for Black Friday presents.