By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
The second festival which we had the privilege to watch during our brief stay in the US was ‘The Thanksgiving’ similar to our Pongal or Sankranti. It is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in the month of November. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the then President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this day as National Thanksgiving Day. This is a family day when families and friends get together and celebrate with traditional meals like turkey and pie. But what follows Thanksgiving Day is truly amazing.
The next day is called “Black Friday” and that is the day America “shops.” It is estimated that forty percent of Americans shop on that day. Some malls and shopping centres open at 6 am on Friday morning and people queue up in the night itself in biting cold. I had gone to a shop called J.C. Penny which had announced that they would open at 5 pm and at 2 pm there was a queue of 500 people standing outside the door. Why?
The shop had announced that the first five hundred shoppers would be given a gift coupon of 10 dollars each. People rush inside and the frenzy in the shops is seen to be believed. It is said that the whole year’s shopping is done on that one day. Of course, the discounts are genuine. A fifty inch TV for 400 dollars! A branded laptop for 600 dollars ! A branded shirt or top for 5 dollars.
The very next day, the discounts are slashed and original rates are back. It has been estimated that Americans spend on an average of 900 dollars upwards on that single day for shopping alone. Online shopping of popular shops has caught on since one can return the material the next day itself, if it does not fit.
Americans are generally considered compulsive shoppers. They change carpets and curtains every 5 years or so. Every summer and winter a colour and design is chosen and everybody rushes to buy it. Next year they dump the used or unused clothes in the donation boxes placed all over the city and buy new clothes for the subsequent years. But as mentioned in my earlier article, US is also home to 41 million poor, who look out for clearance sales in these shops for their annual requirements. Sometimes one can get good shirts and tops for just one dollar in these clearance sale counters. There are hundreds of people who buy from these clearance sales and then sell it at a premium online. A business opportunity.
Another unique sale in the US is the community garage sale. The city administration announces a garage sale for each community in advance. Americans like to change their furniture, carpets, home fixtures, clothes very often and hence one can get good items for a bargain in these garage sales. A sofa set costing 1000 dollars can be purchased for a little as 100 dollars!
The word “quality” is supreme in the US. One has to just walk into any shop or mall in USA. One can get items manufactured all over the world except for items manufactured in the US itself ! Labour is expensive in US hence items manufactured locally are generally expensive. The return policies are so simple. Every shop has a return policy which varies from one month to a year.
One can return any clothes and materials bought as long as the tag is intact. The money is refunded instantly. In wholesale shops like “Costco,” the return policy is valid for a year! Some people, of course, misuse this facility. I know of an Indian family who returned their sofa set after using it for 11 months! We returned a laptop because of a manufacturing defect and refund was instant, no questions asked.
With a combination of discounts, gift vouchers one can get a “value for money” purchase done in US. Buy a Nike shoe in Mysuru it gets worn out in 6 months and the same brand shoe I buy in US lasts for two years? Why? Very simple. Knowing our “chaltha hai” attitude, the manufacturers probably ship substandard products or materials to India. We had taken expensive salwars, nighties etc., from India, from branded shops. Even expensive clothes bleed and thus cannot be put in the laundry machine. Just buy any “Made in India” material in US, it will not bleed? Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
Cars of all colours and makes are available. Surprisingly one has to haggle with a dealer, when one buys a new car! The rates are not fixed. Most of the brands are available across the counters except the “Tesla” [the electric car] which has a two-year wait period. Good second-hand cars can be bought for 1,500 dollars onwards.
[To be continued]