Black Friday…The Day After

You can’t trust anything you read or hear from the “news” these days. I offer two examples to prove my point: headlines back in October warning of a turkey shortage just in time to ruin Thanksgiving, and headlines earlier this week reporting a worldwide strike at Amazon just in time to ruin Black Friday. Here is my take on both stories as I sit on my patio this day after Black Friday, enjoying the birds, the sun, and the unseasonably comfortable weather.

The Turkey Shortage That Wasn’t

The turkey shortage headline cited a combination of ongoing supply chain issues, complicated by an avian flu outbreak that decimated the supply of turkeys. It all sounds reasonable until you actually think about it. Frozen turkeys are produced year-round…the supply is well protected from seasonal pressures like avian flu and supply chain problems, and even from a spike in demand around the holidays. Big Agra actually reported a glut in their supply of frozen turkeys earlier this fall, with on hand stocks 10% higher this year over the past two years. Demand was up this year for sure…large family gatherings reached pre-COVID levels for the first time since the pandemic. But there was no shortage. Frozen turkeys are bred and processed year-round and the supply is well insulated from seasonal pressures.

To be fair, there was an outbreak of avian flu this summer, but that only affects the supply of fresh turkeys, and there is an outbreak of avian flu every summer. This year’s outbreak may have been worse than in the past, but it is something big Agra plans for. What made this year different, at least a far as fresh turkey goes, is that big Agra intentionally reduced their breeding program for fresh turkeys by 20%. They wanted to reduce the supply of fresh turkeys this Thanksgiving so they could create a real sense of urgency, and then jack up prices. Which they did.

Even though the predicted turkey shortage didn’t materialize, the high prices certainly did. But as with every year the price of fresh turkeys tanked the day after Thanksgiving. Fresh birds that Wegmans sold for $2.69 per pound the day before Thanksgiving were put on sale for just $1.29 per pound the day after. That’s less than frozen turkey, which is holding steady at $1.69 per pound. Those frozen turkeys can sit in the display case for up to a year, but grocery stores only have a few weeks to sell out the fresh turkeys they buy in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

Black Friday Mirage

Is Black Friday even real anymore? I’ve never been one to set the alarm clock the day after Thanksgiving and go bat shit crazy at retail stores in search of bargains. My idea of Black Friday shopping is to check Amazon while I sip my third cup of coffee, which was the extent of my Black Friday shopping this year.  Do you want to know how much money I saved by shopping on Black Friday? ZERO.

I was a little concerned as I scanned the news headlines before moving on to my shopping list. I saw headlines reporting a worldwide Amazon strike. I don’t do much retail shopping for the holidays so anything impacting Amazon would be a problem for me. But I was ready. I had created my holiday shopping list on Amazon back in September in anticipation of all those Black Friday specials I was going to cash in on. As long as the strikes didn’t impact Amazon’s website, I would be OK.

I hit the Amazon website much earlier than I planned. For some reason my body was wide awake at 5AM, so there I was just a little before 6 shopping on Amazon eager to see how much money I was going to save. Turns out I didn’t save a penny. Oh sure, every item on my list was tagged with a “Black Friday Special” label, and the sale prices reflected a 35-45% markdown from what the site listed as the regular price. But the actual purchase price, the “Black Friday Sale” price, was the same on Black Friday as it had been when I put the items on my shopping list back in September.

Amazon had jacked up the “regular” price overnight just so they could present the illusion of a great bargain sale price. That’s marketing, something we often encounter often in our travel business. And it works. Only in my case it didn’t. I only bought one item, something I planned to buy anyway, and I paid what I would have paid the day before Black Friday, which is the same I would have paid the day after Black Friday.

What about that worldwide Amazon strike? Well I don’t know. What I do know is the one item I purchased off my Amazon shopping list at 6AM on Black Friday morning was delivered that same day, to my porch, at 10AM. Black Friday prices aren’t what gets me to buy from Amazon…it is their quick delivery. That and the fact that I can shop in my PJs while I sip coffee with Christmas music playing in the background. Holiday shopping sure has come a long way!

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some turkeys to buy.

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