Here's the Scoop: December 4, 2013

Love that fighting holiday spirit

Like millions of others, I picked up some great bargains during my Black Friday shopping excursion. The list is long, but among the items I scored were: mace, boxing gloves and a bulletproof vest. Wait a second; I didn’t buy those things, that’s stuff I brought to the mall. Because, well, you never know how crazy folks will get over the prospect of some really killer deals.

Truth in column writing, I would rather have to sit in the front row while the Yankees clinched another World Series title than visit a mall on Black Friday. I must admit, though, that I did get some perverse enjoyment out of watching video of the Taser fight that allegedly broke out among shoppers at some mall. I have watched the video 29 times. And counting.

You may have noticed that I used the term “allegedly” when describing the mall brawl. Being more than a little cynical, there is part of me that questions the “reality” of that whole fight.

People really do that?
I’m also more than a bit skeptical about the claims for how long people reportedly wait in line to save a few bucks off an iPad or a toaster oven. I’ll bet if those folks were out working, instead of standing/sitting in line, they could afford to pay full retail. Of course, then they couldn’t enjoy the new friendships developed while freezing their butts off in a mall parking lot. Ah, good times.
Did I mention how many times I enjoyed replaying the video of the “Taser Incident” at this year’s Black Friday madness? It wasn’t quite on par with reruns of “Big Bang Theory,” but it was close. The first dozen or so times, I viewed the video for pure pleasure. Sure, I was a bit embarrassed about my fellow countrymen and women acting in this manner, but it takes all kinds. Naturally, I thought the whole incident was absurd, but who could make up such stuff? Well, apparently retailers, that’s who.

As I kept watching the argument and looking forward to the Taser blast, I started slowing down the action. That’s when something odd (OK, even more odd!) caught my eye. At the end of the clip, a close-up of one of shirt of one the combatant’s showed a very small message: “Mention this video and get 15 percent off a 50-inch flat screen TV at Joe’s Electronics.”

The video-viewing public had been had!

Why didn’t I think of that?
The marketer in me felt an immense amount of pride in this clever sales scheme, naturally. On the other hand, 15 percent is a puny discount and wouldn’t lure me to the mall or even get mildly interesting in making an Internet purchase. I’ll start listening when they offer me 35 percent or more in savings.

After discovering the blatant sales pitch included in the video, I began to wonder if there were any other subliminal messages designed to get consumers in a spending mood. I kept studying the clip for other hidden meanings — partly out of fascination and also because I keep hoping for a fantastic deal on an iPad mini!

To my disappointment, I didn’t find any other irresistible discounts mentioned. You can only laugh hysterically so many times at someone getting Tasered, and I was becoming bored with the whole thing. But, then I decided to try one last thing. I played the video backwards. Shockingly, the audio portion very clearly gave a very Beatles-like message: “Mall is dead.” Maybe not dead, but stunned, at least.

— Brian Sweeney