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Omdahl: Black Friday’s Reckoning

By Staff | Dec 28, 2015

The day of reckoning for Black Friday has arrived and the credit card people want their money. Now we’re in trouble for buying stuff that doesn’t fit at a price we couldn’t resist.

To pay for our reckless spending, we have to cut into the grocery budget. The problem with a limited grocery budget is that we end up living on cheap carbohydrates instead of expensive proteins. And grocery stores don’t offer doorbusters.

Black Friday is a scam. It is called “black” because retail America expects to make enough profit on one Friday to get into the black and survive another 11 months. In order for them to get into the black on one day, the rest of us must go into the red all year.

How can slashing prices result in more profit? If they sold their wares at regular prices the rest of the year, the profit margin should have been great enough to keep them in the black. This smells as fishy as lutefisk.

Maybe it’s the way everything starts with the “suggested retail price.” That is such an outrageous figure it makes us wonder who suggested it.

For the stuff from China, I assume that the Chinese are setting the suggested retail price. Or maybe Walmart is telling them what they should suggest so it can be slashed without hurting the bottom line.

We know that Walmart is not really serious about the suggested retail price. During the regular season, they never sell for the suggested retail price so this big black Friday discount is not really a discount at all.

But we play the game even though we know it is fixed. Every year we think we are going to win. In good faith, we clip out the doorbuster coupons and head off to the marketers offering 60 percent off and additional 10 percent if we use their credit card.

When we get to the cash register, we find out that we had to buy the mixer before 4 A.M. on Saturday morning to get the discount. Besides, the really small print (which we didn’t read) tells us that the discount applies only to felt shoes and leather mittens.

It’s a plot. The strategy is to make pricing so confusing that the clerks are the only ones who can figure out what we should pay and we have to believe them because we can’t calculate it ourselves.

If we buy a durable product, the first thing they ask is whether or not we want an extended warranty. This is an important question because warranties are not what they used to be.

At my age, I’m not paying to extend anything. Another thing: if we need to buy extra protection, are they telling us that the merchandise could fall apart on the way out of the store?

Following Black Friday is “fooled you” Monday. The deal for which we froze in line for six hours waiting to bust the doors on Friday is still selling at the doorbuster price all of next week.

From the store, they went to the Internet for another week where they promised free shipping. That makes the whole game even more suspicious.

At the price of shipping these days, that must cost them a few bucks. This tells me that even at doorbuster prices, they have to make money after paying the freight or their Friday wouldn’t be getting black.

All of this paranoid griping aside, we must admit that Black Friday doorbusters are still more fun than anything on television. And some days we win.

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