Happy Black Friday! The day of the year where people get into fistfights over inexpensive televisions and free toasters. I actually used to work at Best Buy in the computer department. I was just a high school computer nerd trying to explain to people what megahertz and megabyte meant. They warned us about Black Friday. They told us what to expect. I was not ready. No one was ready.
We prepared like soldiers before a battle. Our boss gave a rousing speech encouraging all the troops in blue & khaki. There was this computer called eMachines. It was constructed by the devil himself. It was a giant piece of shit more likely to break down than open your email. But it was cheap. Both in cost and in construction. Just holding one in your arms you could feel the terribleness. As if it had an aura of crap surrounding it.
The people rushed in like a crazed mob. Yelling “Do you still have any eMachines??!!” I felt I was honor bound to tell people not to buy them. I begged them, “spend a few hundred more and get a real computer.” No one listened. No one cared. They had “low price fever” and it turned them into Christmas shopping zombies.
A dirty secret that Best Buy fails to keep hidden is that they don’t give a crap about the money they make from computers. All they care about is the Performance Service Plans. 3 year extended warranties. In the biz we called them PSPs for short. We’d keep track of how many plans we sold behind the counter. They made it like a competition for all the sales people. And if you didn’t sell enough they would pull you aside and give you the business. Some bosses would yell, others would pull a grandma and be “very disappointed in you.”
Somehow, some way, we were supposed to convince this angry mob that their computers needed a PSP. Sometimes I felt conflicted about selling these extended warranties. You already get a one year manufacturer’s warranty and if anything is going to break, it is usually in the first year. But these eMachines were literally garbage and I actually felt like the PSP might be a good idea for this horde of nincompoops. But they were all in a rush to buy their thing and get to the next crazy deal. I was not able to convince them of much.
After Christmas was over, those eMachines started coming back to the store. One by one people brought their broken PCs to the repair window. A few with disappointed children at their hip. “Why did Santa bring us a broken computer?” Some yelled at us for selling them crap. In my head I was like, “I tried to warn you dipshit!” But out loud I just apologized and took the blame.
A year passes and we reconvene at our pre-Friday battle meeting. They announce the new item that will attract the shopping zombie masses. It’s a printer. A… free… printer. With rebate, of course. (People don’t know it, but 80% of folks don’t ever send in their rebate and printer manufacturers make all their money on ink anyway.) Was this a good printer? No. No it was not. It was a tiny, noisy, slow, ink guzzling monster made from the cheapest, most flimsy plastic imaginable. The sample printouts were awful and laid so much ink on the page that it wrinkled the paper. Next to this printer was the HP 722c. A marvel of printer engineering. Fast and economical. Built like a tank. And one of the first printers to give truly photo quality results. It was worth every penny and would probably save you money in ink over that free piece of crap.
They all still got the free piece of crap. And when we ran out of the crap, people were like, “Where is the crap?” And we were like, “You didn’t get here at the ass crack of dawn. What do you expect?” And they were like, “What’s the next crappiest thing you have?”
It soon became clear to me. On Black Friday no one wants anything of value to gift their loved ones. They just want the crappiest thing that will technically check off that box on their list. And that is what Christmas is all about.