Holiday Shopping News

Consumer Behavior on Traditionally Biggest Holiday Shopping Weekend Mystifies Analysts

11/28/2012 6:45 am

According to a consumer survey* taken early this morning, zero people in the U.S. shopped in retail stores last Friday, making it the weakest Black Friday showing since hoop-and-stick games were the only toys being sold. Said one would-be shopper, "The mall? On Friday after Thanksgiving? Are you nuts? No, I'll just hang at home. I've got some stuff to do, anyway. Mail to go through, stuff like that."

There was an uptick on Saturday as 311,591,197 people drove to the drug store and bought deodorant, then bought shoes in a local sporting goods store. As one consumer put it, "My shoes were really beat up. The soles were flapping. I sounded like a cheap clown act walking down the hallway."

Sunday saw a rash of online purchasing, as 311,591,197 people bought a book through online retailer Amazon.com. "It was an eBook," said one respondent. "Some sci-fi thing. I dunno, looked interesting."

Cyber Monday also saw a surge of online activity as 311,591,197 people browsed shopping sites, although a total of zero (0) items were purchased. As one person put it, "I looked around on some sites, but didn't see anything interesting. Same old stuff, you know? Besides, I had work to do."

If this weekend is any indication of future holiday behavior, it could be a rough season for retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar. Meanwhile, retailers are expected to stock up in deodorant, shoes, and eBooks, in the hope that these recent consumer trends continue to provide a bright spot in these dark days.

Following is a graphical representation of the survey data. Note, in particular, the huge uptick in shoes because, according to the survey data, people who buy one shoe usually buy another shoe as well.

* Survey sample size of one, extrapolated to current population of United States.


Thanksgiving is Over

Thanksgiving is over.
I feel so bloated.
I think that my stomach and
Liver exploded.

Everything was going
Along just fine.
We’d finished the beer and
Started on wine.

I had mashed potatoes. The
Stuffing was incredible.
I also had lots of all
Else that was edible.

The meat was divine,
The relish was sweet.
Even the vegetables
Provided a treat.

(Spinach casserole, a dish
Handed down from my mother,
Is just spinach held in a
Suspension of butter.)

There was bread, there was wine,
And side dishes galore;
So many that we had
No place to store

Them, and so we kept eating
Because it was there.
We packed it all in,
To the max we could bear.

No sound at the table but
Mass mastication,
With occasional slurps from
Gravy lubrication.

The carcass finally showed
Signs of demise,
And I’d stopped at my seventh
Helping (which was wise).

Uncle Ted had passed out
With his head in his plate,
Which helped his poor chair, by
Distributing his weight.

We’d all settled down,
Alive, but inert...
That’s when the cooks
Came in with dessert.

There was pie of all kinds,
And tons of whipped cream,
An infinite spread of
Dessert, so it seemed.

So we ate again,
I hereby admit.
We crammed it all down,
Every last bit.

Every pie, all the cream;
We sucked it all in.
Auntie Jen was even seen
Licking a tin.

And then it was over,
And we were all groaning,
All you could hear in the house
Was us moaning.

Joe went to sleep,
Right there on the floor,
Followed by Betty,
And two or three more.

Somebody slept out
On the back deck,
Which broke with his weight,
Nearly breaking his neck.

The rest of us managed
To struggle to bed,
Wishing we’d eaten a
Bit less instead.

Thanksgiving is over,
We’re all still in pain.
But there are leftovers;
Let’s do it again!


When I am King: Thanksgiving

When I am King...

There will be more honest holidays.

Thanksgiving is, to me, the holiday that is most quintessentially American. It is also the holiday that is truest to the original spirit of the event.

The honesty of the holiday is seen by examining other major holidays:

Christmas is, at least since the Christians took it over in hostile takeover bid, a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. So we kill each other in mobs at the store and spend ourselves deeply into debt to buy items we don’t need and don’t have room for, wrap them up in single-use paper that goes immediately thereafter into the landfill, put them under a fake (or recently killed) pine tree, and spend the holiday exchanging gifts. And we eat too much. I'm not seeing the connection here.

New Years is a day so confusing to most of us (celebrating the meta idea of the incrementing of the least significant digit of the number representing the year), that we end up binge drinking because we can’t figure out what else to do. And we eat too much.

Easter, another pagan celebration morphed into a Christian holiday, is about the re-birth of Christ. Because I guess the huge celebration at Christmas wasn’t enough for the guy? I’m not positive, but I think Christ is mostly famous for being the only person in history to get two birthday celebrations during the year. Maybe it’s because his main birthday is on Christmas, so his parents felt sorry for him. To celebrate this event, we find candy and hard-boiled eggs that were hidden by a mythical rabbit. And we eat too much.

Resurrection, rabbits, candy, eggs: I don’t get it. Maybe I’m not religious enough. I think the holiday marketing people were sniffing glue when they came up with this one.

The Fourth of July is also a very American holiday, celebrating our independence from that government that taxed us so that we could tax ourselves instead. So we celebrate it with fireworks. And we eat and drink too much at picnics. The connection between independence and blowing stuff up at picnics seems a tad tenuous. Maybe it’s because the original celebrations of people standing around waiting to sign a document weren’t quite riveting enough.

Halloween is one that I think nobody understands. There’s something about scary things, which devolves into going to strangers’ houses begging for candy. After which we eat too much of it. Again, the original idea somehow got lost in the current celebration.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is true to its roots, and 100% American. The original event was the celebratory meal between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, a relaxing time of togetherness and good cheer, right before the invaders spent the next 300 years taking forcing them off their land. The current holiday celebration is similarly about gathering with friends and family and eating. The purpose and the celebration are exactly the same thing, minus the bit about taking their land (because that part’s done).

Meanwhile, the holiday is all-American. Not only does it commemorate the event several hundred years ago that happened on American soil, but, more importantly, we get to eat and drink too much, which is just about as American as you can get.

When I am King, more holidays will be true to their roots. But rather than create a bunch of celebrations that tie directly into events in tedious ways (do you really want to spend Flag Day waving a flag around?), we will create new holidays that are based around food and drink. For example, we could create a day in honor of the hot dog eating contest winner, on which we all gorge ourselves on hot dogs all day. Another holiday might celebrate the establishment of college fraternities, which everyone would remember (and then forget) by drinking too much.

We won’t stop until the holiday calendar is full, and the people are too.

(Aside: Here's a Thanksgiving poem for you: http://chetchat.blogspot.com/2012/11/thanksgiving-is-here-ode-to-gluttony.html)

Thanksgiving is Here! (An Ode to Gluttony)

Thanksgiving is here!
The turkey is ready.
The relish is relished,
The stuffing is bready.

The vegetables sit there,
Untouched in their bowl,
Potatoes, mashed up, are
Right next to the rolls.

The gravy boat, filled with
Spectacular fat,
Is not very big, but
There’s more in the vat.

There’s salad here somewhere
As a healthy treat,
But everyone skips it and
Goes for the meat.

We’ll eat till our shirts
And our dresses are puffed,
We’ll eat several servings
After we’re stuffed.

We’ll cram every food item
In this abode
Into our face till we’re
Set to explode.

Thanksgiving is here!
We need to be fed!
Now let’s keep on gorging
Ourselves till we’re dead.


When I am King: Chet Lag

When I am King...

There will be no more jet lag.

Where is it written that we have to suffer jet lag on the return trip, when we never successfully adjusted to the current time on the other end of the trip?

Here's how my international trips usually go:

First, I always take a red-eye, because, well, it’s just so damn fun missing a night’s sleep. I am never able to sleep on this long flight because, for some odd reason, I find it impossible to sleep in a room with 300 strangers. It's like the world's biggest youth hostel, except with a less comfortable bed and people that are much older and crankier. I do attempt sleep, which usually includes having several glasses of whatever booze they're serving. This tends to make me tired, but never enough to actually sleep. Instead, it just serves to make me both drunk and hungover in time for breakfast.

I land in the morning and spend the day wandering around my destination city in a daze, wanting to nap but knowing that it'll just screw with my internal clock even more. So I stumble around through the day, trying not to get run over or mugged, until I can finally topple into bed, at which point I actually get a solid night's sleep, wake up feeling good, and assume that I must be adjusted to the new time zone.

What an idiot. Every time I travel I have this same experience, and every time I fall for it.

The next night, I once again fall into bed completely exhausted at some reasonably early time and proceed to lie there for something like 47 hours with nary a wink of sleep until one minute before my alarm goes off and it's time to start the day.

This routine continues off and on for the next few nights, where I get roughly two hours of sleep per night. Finally, by the end of a week, I manage to get one normal night of sleep and assume, again, that I have finally adjusted.

What an idiot.

The night before I return, my body goes into travel mode and I'm back to two hours of sleep that night.

I then board a plane that flies back home, during which I once again fail to get any sleep, although I do consume enough alcohol after the airplane breakfast to be drunk by lunchtime and hungover by the time we land.

I stumble home in a haze, buzzing with fatigue and glad to be back in the time zone that my body refused to leave, and eventually fall into bed that night and catch a decent night's sleep, at which point I declare myself done with jet lag.

What an idiot.

The second night home, I crumble into bed in the evening only to have my eyes pop open four hours later, ready to go because my body has decided that it really does want to be in that other time zone, after all.

So I spend the next week at home re-adjusting to the time zone that I never seem to have left until I got home. Meanwhile, I have more waking time than I usually do, since I'm up for most of every night and unable to take naps during the day. This could be a very productive time for me, except for the part where my brains feel like they've just finished an encounter with zombies. So it's all I can do to remember my password and log onto my computer to listlessly browse the web and social network sites looking for mind-numbing content to get me through each day.

When I am King, there will be no more jet lag because the entire world will share a single time zone. No longer will we have to adjust to different times because we will all share the same clock. If you fly for twelve hours, it'll be twelve hours later when you arrive, which seems pretty reasonable to me.

Of course, this could cause problems with the mismatch between daylight and time. We’re still working on that part. I believe it’s solvable, but my mind is so fuzzed by jetlag that I can’t really think through it right now.


Geek Poetry: Mathematickle

An ode to math. Because why not?


I think mathematics
Has pluses and minuses,
Just like our faces have
Nostrils and Sinuses.

A sign of the times,
Results in great products,
And not just for rhymes.

Over and under,
By and by with precision,
The one that remains
Is known as division.

Adding it up
I’m quite overcome,
Accruing has much greater
Impact than sum.

A take-away from subtraction,
Which has no equivalents,
Is all that is left;
It has made all the difference.

Multiplies, adds,
Subtracts and divisors;
Math’s operands are life’s
Great equalizers.


When I am King: Stop Stop Signs

When I am King...

There will be no more four-way stops.

You know the scenario: you pull up to the intersection, see there’s a stop sign, and come to a stop. You see cars coming from the other directions, so you wait for them to pass. But they slow down and stop instead. At this point, you realize that it’s a four-way stop sign, and that you were there before them, so it must be your turn. But by the time you start to pull out, these other cars have decided that you took too long, so they’ve started to pull out. You stop to avoid hitting them, by which time they’ve seen you start to pull out, so they stop. You wave them to go ahead, they wave at you, then you both start again, and both stop again. Meanwhile, more cars have come from all directions, including cars behind you, and they’re all waiting for you to get your little start/stop shuffle over with so that they can begin their own turn.

Four-way stops suck. They’re dependent on drivers that: (a) are polite and wait in turn for others to go and (b) remember when everyone got there. The first of these is obviously ridiculous. The second is patently impossible. I have a hard enough time remember when I arrived; now I’m supposed to figure out when everyone else got there as well?

If it were only four directions, it might be possible to do this. But usually such an intersection has as many as two to three lanes in each direction. the one nearest my house has four lanes going north, and four going south and two lanes each going east/west. That’s a total of twelve cars at any one time that I have to keep track of. More to the point, there are eleven other drivers that I have to trust also knowing the order in which everyone got there. Then you throw a pedestrian into the mix sauntering along the crosswalk, and all hell breaks loose and it’s as much as you can do not to run them over in spite.

We’ve got enough to deal with in our driving lives: high gas prices, road rage to keep in check, traffic to contend with, and other drivers to unfairly cut off so that we can arrive at work one car length earlier. Do we really need to add these multi-way stop hassles to it?

The response from some people when seeing this mess is that these intersections should be replaced by roundabouts. I’ve seen these work in England with great effectiveness, as cars go speeding into and out of the circle by achieving terminal velocity in the gravitational field of the roundabout. It looks like great fun and seems effective at keeping the traffic moving. The Arc de Triomphe roundabout in Paris also seems to work, although it seems more like a method to cut down on the driving population. But if you’ve ever seen one of these attempted in the U.S., you’ll know that it’s never going to work here. No matter what signage is there, nobody can ever figure out when they’re supposed to go, so either they wait forever until they think the coast is clear, or they just decide they have the right of way and go bombing into the intersection regardless of who was there already. I saw one of these installed in South Carolina a couple of years ago and some of the first cars to reach it are still waiting to enter the circle.

When I am King, there will be a technological solution to the problem. Just as traffic lights allow everyone to proceed safely even as they make people feel better about cheating the system by speeding through the yelllow-red, the new four-way stops will be both effective and and fair. In a world where tiny phones can correctly interpret sentences to return search results, it surely lies within our grasp to have the intersections themselves detect who got there first. Signals at the intersection will indicate which car should go first at any given time. If, as in a traditional 4-way stop, other cars try to race into the intersection first, a trap door will open up under those vehicles, removing the cars and their drivers from the intersection and from future intersection disagreements.

Clearly, this problem has to stop.