Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Sales - Essay from Newsletter 192

Avoiding the discounts and hustle

Signs of the holiday

When I worked in radio, we’d start playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving.

We’d play one song per shift starting on that first Friday after the fourth Thursday in November.

A week later we’d play two songs per shift and a week after that maybe one Christmas song per hour.

By the week of Christmas we’d play multiple Christmas songs per hour and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we’d play nothing but Christmas music.

The day after Christmas we’d switch back to no Christmas music and both we and the audience were ready to move on.

The first float in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is Tom Turkey and the last float is Santa. It’s a way of announcing officially that Thanksgiving is the official start of the Christmas season.

The four or five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas could make or break a retailer’s year. It was important to train us consumers to start consuming.

Enjoy your day at home with the family. Get plenty of food and rest. Tomorrow, Black Friday, is the starting gun for the Christmas shopping season and you need to be in the malls when the stores with the best sales open.

At least that’s the way it was.

Step right up

Now the Christmas buying season starts at Halloween. Some cities have dedicated Christmas music radio stations that start with all Christmas music all the time the day after Halloween.

And the sales - I’ve been getting Black Friday sales announcements for a month with sales that run on some random Tuesday or Thursday or over a weekend.

I never thought I’d become nostalgic for this made-up holiday, but I swear that Black Friday has lost all of its meaning.

It was always the hard sell that Tom Waits celebrates in “Step right up”.

“Step right up

Everyone’s a winner

Bargains galore

That’s right you too can be the proud owner of

The quality goes in before the name goes on”

The day after Black Friday you’d sit with friends and listen to first-world war stories about what it took to get the television set they wanted given the combatants they faced.

Amazon doesn’t want you to leave your house. They now stream a professional football game on Black Friday to encourage people to stay home and shop online.

I bought a WaterPik from Amazon because the discount was high enough - but I don’t worry about the money that WaterPik or Amazon needs between Thanksgiving and Christmas to stay in business.

I do worry about small businesses and authors and independent app developers.

Sales Work

When I was an editor at the Pragmatic Programmers I suggested we run a Black Friday sale.

One of the partners was resistant. I think he was concerned that people would be conditioned to wait for the sale each year and not pay full price in the months leading up to the discounts.

They ran the sale and it was an overwhelming success. They’ve run it every year since.

I think I would now be arguing on the other side.

The authors make a percentage of the sale price so authors are now getting a smaller amount for each book sold at that time of year.

On the other hand, the authors tend to be selling a lot more books so the sale does put more money in their pockets - but I don’t want to encourage consumers to spend less money on something they want from a creator they respect.

My friend Paul helped me create a bundle of some of my books and offer them for sale. At his urging I then offered a further discount for Black Friday and sold a digital ton of books.

It was a success but this year I didn’t do it. I even toyed with raising my prices for the holidays - but I didn’t do that either.

If there’s someone whose work you really like, help them out and make a purchase without using the discount if you can. Shop at a local place and help the retailer out.

And while you’re out stop at a local place for coffee or have a meal at a restaurant that isn’t a chain.

Keep these places in business before you find yourself

“on the business end of our

Going out of business sale

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Happy Black Friday to those who celebrate. I’m trying not to.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 192. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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