Rachel del Valle | No buyer’s remorse for Black Friday’s death
Duly Noted | We should welcome the move toward virtual holiday shopping
November 27, 2011, 11:53 pm · Updated November 29, 2011, 1:39 pm·
Rachel del Valle
Cyber Monday, happening right now on a computer near you, is not even a decade old. Despite its tender age, the term — coined by the National Retail Federation — already seems outdated. It’s like something your grade-school computer teacher would say along with “world wide web” and “floppy disk.”
With all the focus on this year’s Cyber Monday as this big, overwhelming hope that will make cherubs sing and the internet crash out of excitement, I wonder: when will Black Friday become obsolete? And, more importantly, will it really feel like the holidays without people getting into fistfights over parking spaces and Furbies?
Why does anyone bother with Black Friday sales and the madness they inspire when you can calmly, coolly wait until Monday morning and bag all the clothes and picture frames and DVD box-sets you don’t really need from the comfort of your bed/cubicle/lecture hall?
I’ve always thought that technology would be the exception to this rule and, ironically, would never make the transition to online sales. After all, an incident involving pepper spray at a California Walmart late Thursday night was over a crate of Xbox consoles, not snow globes.
But according to research conducted by IBM Coremetrics Benchmark, things like iPads and wannabe iPads are flying off the virtual shelves. On Black Friday, online sales grew by 24.3 percent compared to the same period last year. And 2010 was the biggest Cyber Monday ever, with over $1 billion spent. IBM also found that sales made on mobile devices have shot up astronomically, with people buying the latest thing on their up-until-recently thing. It’s all very meta.
There’s something more thoughtful about shopping for a present online than in a crowded store filled with harried parents and “Last Christmas” shouting on a loop from unseen speakers. Shopping this time of the year is simply a more pleasant experience without all the crowds and the glitter. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and romance and anything that makes me feel like I’m living in a Technicolor movie, but holiday shopping is where I draw the line. In terms of practicality, online shopping just makes more sense.
You may ask: What about the charming window displays? What about the satisfaction of finding a size medium in the mussed heap of itchy but heavily discounted wool sweaters? What about the sense of power you feel when someone anxiously tails you with their car so they can take your parking spot?
I can take those things in moderation, but the frenetic environment of a store the month before Christmas paired with my inherent indecisiveness is too much. I end up buying socks with illustrations on them and movies that are always on TV anyway and kitschy things to “put on my bookshelf” — the stuff buyer’s remorse is made of.
There’s certainly something missing from an online transaction. The sound of plastic hangers crashing against each other. The feeling of strangers pushing behind you as you try to decide whether your sister would look better in scarlet or cherry red. The triumph of coming home with shopping bags swinging from every limb, like in the montage from Clueless.
Adding things to your shopping bag in the upper right hand corner of your computer screen is comparatively cold and impersonal, but then — with their air conditioning and overworked employees — so are department stores.
Online shopping is marked less by coldness than by clarity. I can go through my list of people to shop for, carefully browse through websites and find a nearly perfect gift. I’ll know that I am buying said present not simply because it’s on sale and it’s going fast and the checkout line is getting really long. I’m choosing it because it’s a lovely gift. And, you know, it’ll bump up my total enough to get free shipping.
Rachel del Valle is a College sophomore from Newark, N.J. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Duly Noted appears every Monday.