As Others See It / A case of Black Friday fatigue

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The keen-eyed killjoys at The Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section have taken a hard look at Black Friday, the super-sales day when stores reportedly go into the black for the year, and found that an alert shopper can often get as good or better deals by carefully shopping sales during the year.

Black Friday seems to be a conspiracy of hype between this nation's highly competitive shoppers and its equally competitive retailers. Are we alone in detecting a kind of Black Friday fatigue in the land?

The Journal paired with a retail research firm and found that nearly a third of 500 "doorbuster" products offered at Black Friday discounts had been earlier sold at lower prices during the year.

Black Friday has become subject to what the military might term "mission creep." First, stores opened at the normal times on Friday, then earlier and earlier, until many of them were opening Thanksgiving night. Even those openings began to creep into the afternoon.

Our one holiday dedicated purely to family and gratitude threatens to become our one holiday devoted to no-holds-barred commerce. And it doesn't stop. The weekend featured Small Business Saturday, when bruised and bedraggled shoppers were expected to suck it up one more time and spread a little cash among small neighborhood stores. Realizing shoppers can stand only so much abuse, retailers invented Cyber Monday, when consumers can sit quietly at their computers and shop without having to sleep on the sidewalk to get first crack at a fifth-generation iPod Touch.

The Journal found that the best buys on certain products were in October and at the beginning of the year. But where's the fun, the competition, in that?

The economy is still fragile, consumer spending is vital to the recovery and it's probably horribly unpatriotic to raise the issue. But does anybody ever ask, "Do we really need all this stuff?"

Forget we asked. Go shop. You'll find a use for that bargain whatever-it-is once you get home.

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