Blue State of mind

The consumers among you no doubt realize last Friday was “Black Friday” – the infamous shopping frenzy that is the day after Thanksgiving.

TV news was filled with images of people lined up outside Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. and crowds mobbing displays of discount DVD players to snap up the deals. And from Saturday on, the commentary has been consistent: “Why do people go through all this just to shop?”

The talking heads seem mystified. “Some people just love to shop”, “It takes the boredom out of Thanksgiving” and “People get pressured to go by family members” were the theories put out on CNN this morning.

Clearly the media doesn”t understand.

Why did all those people line up before sunrise and fight for $18 DVD players? Because they had to.

For a lot of American families – maybe moreso those “Red State” families – inconvenience is an economic reality. To give their kids a “good” Christmas, they have to stretch their dollars and find the biggest deals. And those deals happen when Wal-Mart”s doors open on Black Friday.

An $18 DVD player is a major score. Little Johnny won”t get one if it costs $68. If the family wants to get a PC, they have little choice but to line up at 5 a.m. to get the $349 one.

And it”s not just at Christmas. These people are the ones who only buy food they have coupons for. They are first in line for back-to-school sales to save $1 on a pack of pencils. They buy clothes at Wal-Mart.

I”m not one of these people. Never have been. I grew up spoiled and was beyond the “new shoes every month” stage when I got poor. I”m a bargain shopper, but my idea of a good deal is a $10 Gap shirt or $50 Kenneth Cole shoes.

But I can empathize with people who struggle to provide a “normal” life for their kids and themselves. They aren”t poor, but the comforts of modern life are a luxury at full retail price.

What”s interesting is how clueless the media seems to be to this reality. Pretty much by definition, people on TV don”t fit the profile of 5 a.m. Black Friday shoppers. But are they so detatched that they don”t understand the reality of these other American families?

And is this typical of “Blue State” attitudes? These types love to mock Wal-Mart shoppers and make fun of people who”s idea of a night out is dinner at Ryan”s Family Steak House.

But do they really not understand why “Red State” America is the way it is? It would seem pretty hard to win their votes if you don”t …

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