Friday, November 29, 2013

Blacky Friday - São Paulo

Today is Black Friday. It is an annoying day to me, as it turns normal people into beasties, but it's a custom that I've largely ignored in the US. To me, the Friday after Thanksgiving means laying about with friends and family, going for a long walk in some nearby park or woods in a half-hearted attempt to work off the calories, and generally enjoying being at home. For many folks in the US, that is true. 

For some, it is not. They go out at all kinds of hours day and night to shop. It used to be 5 am opening on Friday; now it is 8 pm opening on Thanksgiving Day. I don't understand this and I don't like it. It has ruined one of the best and simplest holidays in the US. I also really feel for people like my friend Katie who have to get up at 2:45 am on Friday morning to greet the shoppers theoretically at 5 am, but there were already people waiting outside at 4 am. It's madness. But it is American-style madness--me, me, me, and shop, shop, shop.

But now (and for the last few years) it's been imported to Brazil. Growing each year in size and media presence, Black Friday now starts at midnight at the Extra supermarket and various other places. A website even gives ideas of the best offers, and has one of its partners as the consumer complaint page "Reclame Aqui." That's funny. Even better is that Extra, the first one to put those deals out there is winning the complaint race this morning with over 270 complaints.

I have my doubts that most people here even know why it has the name "Black" Friday--or, as they say it here, "blacky Friday." In fact, Americanas shops are so confused, they say it is "Red Friday" (their store color) but that is exactly what retailers DON'T want:  a season in the red. There is no significance to the day as being after Thanksgiving--no start of the Christmas season, which starts here in October because there is no "blocker" of the gobbler holiday.

Americanas. Completely confused, in spite of being "americana".

Perhaps Jose Simão, my favorite Folha de São Paulo columnist (blog post on him to come shortly) says it best: "Black Fraud; when everything can be had for half of double." And it's true. Or as my personal trainer says "actually, it's only 30% off of double." São Paulo is one expensive city and the prices you pay for what are commodities in the US are simply unbelievable. A scrapbooking hole punch that costs US$20 on Amazon costs US$100 here. The same one. Why? Import duties...and frankly people pay. I don't know who pays, but someone does. Me, I wait until some poor unsuspecting friend is coming from the US and proceed to bombard her/his house with Amazon shipments of vitamins (cost double here), Apple products (three times, at least), and Frito's. The last because I just can't get them here.

Let me give you another example. The Furby. I became aware of this toy only a couple of weeks ago when a mom of a 5-year old girl told me about it. It seems to be mostly a girl phenomenon. It is some fuzzy toy that you have to feed or it dies (electronically) and other things that apparently girls want (!!! please note sarcasm!!). Then I was shooting the breeze with a 6-year old ballet friend of my son's and she said she had been saving up since forever to buy it. I said much is it? She said R$400 (US$200). Have I overused my !!!!! allowance today? No? Well... !!!!!!!!! $200US for a fuzzy toy that kicks it? Okay, so I had to check it out on Amazon and that same fuzzy dying beast costs only $40US in the States. What is the deal? 

Oh, um, oops, looks like I digressed. Ahem. Okay, so if Mr. Furby is US$200 here and it were to go on sale for $100US (yeah right), you are still paying more than double the US price. Shipping just doesn't cost that much. Import taxes are the bane of Brazilian existence. And where does the money go? I have no idea but it's not to schools, hospitals or transportation. Mystery.

Do me a favor. If you live in the US and it's a day off for you, go take a walk. Go tickle your niece. Go watch football. I don't care: just don't buy into Black Friday. Or if you do, please bring a cupcake to those store workers who had to get up at an ungodly hour to give you a $100 TV.

If you live in Brazil, just say no to the import of this truly stupid day. That is all.


  1. Spot on, Kris. I will be in Miami next week and would be happy to smuggle back some Fritos for you.


  2. Erika and I were in Asuncion (my first time back since my summer job there in 1985) when they celebrated Black Friday...all week and in August.