Thursday, November 27, 2008

The world just wants us to shop on Friday

The Pacific time zone is one of the last time zones in the world. As I'm waking up right now, people in Mumbai are going to sleep...or trying to go to sleep, I guess.

Basically, the ordering of the time zones means that many of us are just waking up to our Thursday - a day in which those of us in the United States are supposed to be engaged in the act of giving thanks. And, truthfully, we do have a lot for which to be thankful.

But, for many people in Washington, Chicago, New York, and elsewhere, the key thing about Thursday is that it is the day before Friday. If Tony Campolo were an economist, he'd be saying, "It's Thursday, but Friday's coming."

And this year the parallel doesn't even work. For the parallel to work, Thursday would have to be a completely dead shopping day, but some stores are open today, just to get one more sale.

Tomorrow the madness begins. Some people are really into it, waking up at 3:00 am to hit the 4:00 am sale specials. But I suspect that the mood of the majority will be indifference - some people just aren't in the mood to shop this year, even with cheap gasoline.

But Barack Obama, realizing that the eyes of the nation are on him, is trying to prime the pump.

"People should understand that help is on the way," the soon-to-be-President reassured. "As they think about this Thanksgiving shopping weekend and as they think about the Christmas season that's coming up, I hope that everybody understands that we are going to get through these difficult times."

Obama said his family would be breaking out the greenbacks on Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, to give the economy a boost.

"We are gonna do some Christmas shopping," he said. His daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, have sent their wish list to Santa, he said, "but we may do some extra shopping as well."

And the world is watching. Stock exchanges in most of the world are trading today, waiting to see what we will do.

"It's going to be a bit of a nothing day, as we wait for Black Friday in the United States -- the day where all retailers go from red to black," said Justin Urquhart Stewart, investment director at Seven Investment Management.

"If it goes like the UK, it could be a black Friday in the wrong sense," he added.

And the stats aren't comforting:

[A] new study from the American Research Group shows that the amount Americans plan to spend on Christmas gifts this year is half what they planned to spend last year, and the lowest number in at least a decade.

I'm sure that the children of the world are sending their Christmas lists to jolly young Uncle Sam, but they don't want stuff made by elves. They want stuff that Americans buy with dollar bills. Buy a Kindle, beg the children of Europe. Buy a Bob Geldof CD, beg the children of Africa. Just buy, buy, buy.

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