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Apodaca: Black Friday meets Thanksgiving

November 17, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

This week, we will join together in the spirit of gratitude and hopefulness as we celebrate one of the oldest and most revered American customs.

We're going shopping.

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again when we descend like crazed hordes on shopping malls, electronics outlets and big-box retailers. And just when you thought this overwrought ritual couldn't get any nuttier, we now are witness to a new phenomenon: Black Friday, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving kickoff to the holiday shopping season will now begin Thursday.

That's right, we're now meant to commence our annual shopalooza on Thanksgiving Day. Some of the nation's biggest retailers, including Target, Toys R Us, Sears, Kmart, Gap and Walmart, will open their doors before the gravy's congealed and the whipped cream's been dolloped.

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Of course, this really shouldn't come as a surprise. We all know that the holiday shopping season really starts in October — or is it September? — as evidenced by the glittery, gaudy Christmas décor that begins appearing in stores while I'm still buying Halloween candy.

Indeed, the National Retail Federation estimated last week that 52.8% of Americans had already started their holiday shopping. I knew this was true because most of them were in line with me at one of my favorite clothing stores at South Coast Plaza last weekend.

Lured by an irresistible offer to "preferred customers," I naively thought I could pop in quickly and pick up items I'd been lusting after for myself, and some gifts for family. Silly me. I dodged through masses of other "preferred customers," opted to forgo the overstuffed dressing rooms and try on sweaters, mid-aisle, over my old clothes, and secured a spot in an interminable checkout line that was a model of Department of Motor Vehicles-like efficiency.

After 20 minutes in line I had barely moved, and I gave up and left. There are only so many times you can check your phone in an attempt to keep from dying of boredom.

Nonetheless, there's something fundamentally optimistic and quintessentially American about our national obsession with shopping. Retailers have good reason to buck tradition and open for business on Thanksgiving. It's because such gimmicks work on a public that views shopping as a cherished pastime, and — Internet sales notwithstanding — still loves nothing better than a trip to the mall.

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