Belfast Telegraph

Why yule all be going crackers for a bargain again on Black Friday

By Lindy McDowell

Only a couple of days to go to Black Friday, that American-imported festival of greed and grasping that now officially kicks off the season of peace and love and goodwill to all ad-men. Can't wait. If only for the video footage.

In the wake of last year's unsettling scenes, which ranged from scuffles and hair-pulling to all-out riots, police are, this time round, advising stores to enhance security.

Little wonder.

News reports from some of last year's participating stores show customers coming to blows over cut-price electrical merchandise. In one shop, a bargain-hunter sustained a fractured wrist. In another, a wheelchair-user was hit on the head by a falling television set.

The weak and frail were punched to the ground as more athletic consumers wrestled 32-inch surround-sound loss-leaders from the grasp of their rightful claimants. It was howling, cursing, punching, scrabbing mayhem. Supermarket Sweep meets Game of Thrones.

And caught in the crossfire in all this were the sales staff. One worker ended up with a black eye. Another was verbally abused by a customer apparently outraged that the hummus wasn't included in Black Friday deals. (You wouldn't want to mezze with him).

All this for what? In some instances, the "amazing" price cuts amounted to little more than 20%. TV sets were discounted from £300. The potential price to pay? £240 - and a conviction for assault.

It's easy to sneer at the bargain-hunters who allow themselves to be whipped into such shopping frenzy. But many are people just out to get the best value for their families at Christmas with hard-earned money.

Which is why it will be back unto the breach once more come Friday as retailers gear up for what it is hoped will be a more organised, dignified free-for-all.

A sign that planners may not have thought the thing through properly though - Black Friday this year falls at the end of a week when many consumers who are paid by calendar month still won't have their November pay. That only reaches accounts after the weekend. Also, at least one big chain is giving it all a miss this year, possibly on the grounds that other aspects outweigh profit margins. Not least the PR aspect.

Big business takes an odd, dual approach to Christmas - promoting wild spending via sentimental slush.

I may be tempted to throw my stuffed Mog toy through my cut-price Blaupunkt flatscreen if I see yet another small, winsome child discovering the True Meaning of Christmas thanks to clever shopping choices.

The little girl with the telescope in the John Lewis ad leads the pack. Although the goodwill message may be slightly skewed. She spots an elderly man marooned on the moon in a garden shed with a park bench (has he been to B&Q?) and yet tells no one. She dispatches a gift into space by balloon. (Are you watching this Nasa?)

Turns out this pressie is another telescope (she got it for Christmas; she's re-gifting) and, cruelly, has sent the spare to the old boy so that he can view festivities back on earth. The merry-making, in other words, from which he is extra-terrestrially excluded. Happy Christmas, sir.

The John Lewis genre of advertising schmalz has sparked a glut of band-wagoning seasonal commercials - not all of them quite as successful. The Ballymena Bear I can forgive, both because it is local and it is clever. (And if someone in the town doesn't start producing a Ballymena Bear range of cuddly toys, they're missing a trick).

Lisburn doesn't have the cuddly toy, but has used considerable savvy with a discount weekend throughout the city, well promoted with the add-on of cheap parking.

And so to Belfast? What of Belfast? We can only assume Belfast is working on a heart-tugging promotional vid of its own.

Small child peering through a telescope spots elderly man marooned in a bus lane perhaps?

Fresh Start at Stormont merely hides a nasty odour

If Stormont's Fresh Start was a deodorant (which is what it sounds like) it could be done under the Trades Description Act.

On the grounds that it isn't fresh, it isn't a start and, as new beginnings go, it's just another blast of anti-perspiration masking the musty oxter of local politics.

Maybe they were just running out of names for the thing. We can't have yet another "agreement", can we? So we have a Fresh Start, which involves welfare spending outsourced to Westminster and really not that much else. Fresh? Or just the same old whiff of fudge?

Lack of vegetarian options is driving me nuts

I may have mentioned this before, but as a vegetarian I would like to appeal to local restaurateurs to maybe consider something other than butternut squash as the veggie option on their menus.

Trust me, we have now reached utter butternut squash peak.

Is there a single restaurant in town which does not currently have something with butternut squash in it for non-meat eaters? The damn stuff is everywhere.

Why? Is there an EU glut? Is there nothing else?

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