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Omdahl: Black Friday becomes Red January

By Staff | Jan 2, 2015

That headache we are feeling as we see the mailperson dropping off bulging letters from credit card companies is called “doorbuster hangover.” The retailer’s Black Friday now becomes Red January because we overdid it.

All of the big lending folks are after us – Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. In addition, we hear from Macy’s, Penney’s, Sears, Starbucks, Target, Walmart, Lowes, Kohl’s, K-Mart, Joe’s Barber Shop and Amazon. It’s called spreading the wealth. In our case, it’s really spreading the debt.

At our house, the Christmas buying season is preceded by a bargaining session with the three offspring. We negotiate the size of the estate. This year, by a vote of two-to-one, they let us spend the estate down by three percent.

This Christmas, Gray Thursday and Black Friday teamed up to siphon much more from the estate than the negotiated three percent. Two more years like this and we won’t have to worry about probate. The estate tax disappeared in the rearview mirror four years ago.

Maybe our ardor for reckless spending would be cooled if we remembered why there is such a day called Black Friday. It is called black because it is supposed to put retailers in the black.

Now let’s think about that a little. Retailers are offering us doorbusters – 50 and 60 percent discounts – and by giving us these huge discounts, they expect to make enough profit to end the year in the black.

By giving us the merchandise cheaper, they are making more money. So, I wonder, how much are they making when they are not giving doorbusters. When items are sold at regular prices, they are losing money? My Texas Instruments calculator says it doesn’t add up.

Nevertheless, here we are with an armful of credit card bills, payday loans, and other instruments of debt. For retailers to go into the black, I must go into the red. Christmas shopping is simply an exchange of colors.

To deal with our deficit, which is proportionately more than the federal debt, we are forced to look at some undesirable options, especially since paying cash is out of the question.

We could pay $60 on that $3,800 credit card bill. The credit card people would like that since they can make 23 per cent interest on the unpaid balance during the 36 years it would take to liquidate. That would be more profitable than the retailers who made only 11 per cent on the merchandise.

We could send them unsigned checks. That would give us a couple of weeks before they could return the checks and asked for a signature. That would give us some breathing space.

We could file for bankruptcy. Not only would that impeach our management abilities but the newspapers publish bankruptcies and that would be embarrassing. It would also end membership on the mayor’s budget committee.

We could get a “reverse” mortgage to use some of the equity in our home. Unfortunately, we already did that last year.

We could throw ourselves in the government safety net by cancelling grocery purchases in favor of food stamps; drop medical insurance and go on Medicaid, and cancel payments to the power company and get fuel assistance.

When all else fails, we could pray. But I’m not sure God will bail us out of our consumerism, especially since He got such a small share of our Christmas money. He would do better starting a credit card company.

It may not be a happy new year but we can wish it anyway. So Happy New Year.

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