We are off to the races!

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. It is hard to believe that, in this busiest of seasons, we now have three additional holidays that are fighting to capture our time, attention and money.

It used to be considered bad luck to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving was over. My brother and I still hold to that tradition, although the starting time for decorating is now after the Thanksgiving meal and not at midnight.

Midnight is now reserved for the start of the shopping season. At a time after I am long asleep, thousands of our neighbors and friends are beating down the doors to capture the deals and bargains advertised by the Walmarts, Targets, and Kohls of the world.

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More than $52 billion was spent by Americans on Black Friday, so named because it is supposedly the day that American retailers become profitable. Approximately 226 million Americans went shopping on that Friday, spending an average of $400 per person.

It is hard to believe those numbers, given all of the gloom and doom regarding the economy. Perhaps it is a good sign. Perhaps we are finally coming out of the economic doldrums that have been with us for almost three years.

I can’t say that my company did not try to capitalize on all the excitement of Black Friday. Many of our restaurants opened at 4 a.m., a full two hours early, to hopefully feed breakfast to some of the early/late shoppers out and about.

Still, it is hard to believe that so many people spent so much money in just one day. I still remember when I received a used record player that my mother refurbished in my favorite colors of orange and blue. I remember the bicycle that my brother received that was located in a barn and bought from the parents of a boy who had outgrown it. The cost for the bike was $5.

My grandson has already shown me all the things he would like from the 52-page Toys ‘R’ Us circular in the newspaper. I didn’t know so many toys existed.

If you missed the Black Friday shopping extravaganza, then you had a second chance on the lesser known Small Business Saturday. This is my favorite because it most reflects the world I grew up in.

Joe Calhoun’s Five and Dime Store was the center of attention in Cottonwood, Ala., for a small kid. Mr. Calhoun always seemed to carry most of that change in his pocket. I can still hear the sound of him jingling that change during the prayers at the Baptist Church.

Later, I would travel down Foster Street in downtown Dothan. My siblings and I would be put out at one end of the street and picked up at the other end. Whatever we had saved, earned or been given was spent along the way.

Finally, if you still hadn’t completed your shopping list by the end of the weekend, you could participate in Cyber Monday. Keep in mind that it was still November, yet we are made to feel panicked if we aren’t close to finishing our list.

The Internet shopping boom that has long been predicted is finally here. In just this one Monday, more than $1.2 billion is spent in this country by people with their computers, IPads or Smart phones. This is why the big buildings housing our malls and stores seem so empty on this day. We are learning how to shop from the comfort of our own homes.

Except for my devotion to smaller, local stores and my favorite places to shop from years past, I must admit that I am a convert to Internet shopping. You can pick the size, color and style without much trouble. It will be shipped free. If you don’t like it, then send it back. What a change that is from our past.

I confess that most of my shopping is still done at the last minute. For many years, I waited until Christmas Eve, thinking that the smaller selection made my choices easier. Besides, it just seems like Christmas when you are dashing about with the sounds of the holiday all around you.

We are just getting to the start of December; there’s no need to feel hurried. Take the time to select a gift that is meaningful to those you love. It isn’t the cost, as much as the thought. Look for the small thoughtful things that touch their hearts and show that you took the time to think of them.

The race is on to buy the perfect gifts. Just remember that advertisers are driving that train. You can always join people like me that are on the caboose and making those last-minute decisions.

Either way, remember what we are really celebrating, don’t stress, and enjoy this time with family and friends.

Dan Ponder can be reached at dan@donalsonvillenews.com.