Hey Black Friday Shoppers, This Column Is Practically Free!

When I was a kid, my parents shopped for one reason: we needed something.

"Mom, there's a hole in my Toughskins." "Fine, I'll buy you a new pair." "Dad, we're out of shampoo." "OK, I'll get some, but just use dish soap for now. It's the same thing." For my parents, shopping was not a recreational sport that involved hunting for great deals or stocking up or waiting in line for new gadgets. When we hit a mall, we did so with the time-precision of a military squadron. We did not window shop or drift aimlessly from store to store, except to compare prices on the stuff we had already opted to purchase, which is to say, we didn't make optional purchases.

If my father set out to buy a can opener, he did not come home with a vacuum cleaner just because it was 90 per cent off.

"Can that Hoover suck open my cans of tuna?" he would have growled at the clerk.

I miss those days.

Sure, I may have tottered around on occasion in drafty trousers or with hair that resembled a pigeon lavatory. But thinking about how my parents used to shop, I'm envious of the structural pragmatism, of the utter lack of marketing pressure crushing down on their wallets.

Black Friday is nearly upon us. Depending on where you live, you may also be treated to "Gray Thursday." In about 96 hours, it will be Cyber Monday and, yes, soon the retail gurus will find a way to colour-code every shopping day of the year until we're all in the red:

It's Turquoise Tuesday!

I have tried to understand the allure of Black Friday. Alas, having never mastered the black art of Boxing Day, I mostly get lost in a haze of special offers, door crashers, maximum savings, stackable discounts and all the "lowest price of the year" promises.

This is my chief gripe with Black Friday: it's an excuse to buy stuff we don't need.

So I'm not here today to steer you toward killer deals. Instead, as a public service, I will simply point out a problem I've noticed in recent years. The retail gurus will tell you Black Friday is now the busiest shopping day of the year. What they won't tell you is it is also causing reasonable people to turn into unhinged shopaholics.

Here now, 20 Signs Black Friday Is Making You Crazy 1. You can't remember your social insurance number, but you can calculate shipping and duties for a dozen U.S. retailers in your head.

2. Your ringtone is an old-timey cash register.

3. You have considered paying a homeless person to save you a great parking spot by sleeping in it the night before.

4. You lie and tell your kids Santa's workshop is at an outlet mall in Buffalo.

5. You keep the measurements of your major appliances inside your underwear.

6. Someone told you about a previous Black Friday incident involving a stampede and you responded, "Yeah, I can totally see that." 7. Using throw pillows and an empty cardboard box, you have practised hurling your body on a flat screen TV just in case it's the last one.

8. You recently impulse-bought a new dog and named it "Haggle." 9. You have spent more time reading flyers this week than you have reading books this year.

10. When you walk into a Walmart, the greeter remembers you from last year and looks away.

11. You will wait six hours in line for a discounted Apple product, but you refuse to waste time in the food court even though your kids are now holding their stomachs and silently weeping.

12. Your basement already contains more unopened merchandise than most mom and pop stores in the GTA.

13. You made your vacation request for this Friday in 2009.

14. You have lubricated your wallet so your Visa slides out faster.

15. To get psyched up, you are listening to Muzak all week.

16. When friends ask what you're doing Friday, you get suspicious and ask, "Why?" 17. You placed a job ad on Kijiji looking for "strong bag carriers." 18. You have memorized the floor plans of every electronics store within a 10-km radius of your home.

19. You are wearing diapers for the first time in your adult life.

20. At 90 per cent off, you will buy anything.

Hey Black Friday Shoppers, This Column Is Practically Free! 1

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