The CEO took a few deep breaths and repeated his mantra silent to himself, and then addressed the shareholders.
“Esteemed shareholders, I know that our Black Friday sales were quite a bit lower than anticipated,” he said. “Believe me when I say that this is a greater shock to me then it is to you. No one could have predicted that people would be sick of Black Friday, and would choose to stay at home with their families rather than run out in the dark night and participate in a stampede for televisions. Clearly there are forces at work here with which we are unfamiliar.”
The CEO took a sip of water. The water went down the wrong pipe, and there was a coughing fit for a few moments.
“But do not despair,” the CEO continued upon regaining control. “There is hope. We and the other big stores have a plan. Instead of waiting for the customers to come to us, we’re going to go to the customers.”
At 4:00 a.m. the following morning, employees from all of the major retailers lined up at the home of one of their rewards club members who had failed to show up at the Black Friday sale. Someone pushed the doorbell, and when the groggy homeowner in his bathrobe opened the door a crack to see who was ringing the bell at such an hour, the employees rushed into the house with all sorts of wares – on sale, of course.
The homeowner was bewildered, but he was so tired and desperate to get back to bed that he bought a few items. Then the employees left and went to the house next door, where the process was repeated. And so on until the end of the block.
A lot of people complained about the invasion of privacy and overly aggressive sales tactics. But it was hard to argue with the results. It turned out that the real reason people didn’t spend on Black Friday was because they didn’t want to deal with the parking. Once that was taken out of the equation – along with the traveling, the waiting on lines, the crowds, and the having to wear pants – people were happy to spend money.
Sales not only rebounded, but exceeded all the estimates and set a record for the holiday shopping season. Soon all the stores were doing it. People could expect a visit from the employees of a store at least once a week. Not only was it unnecessary to visit the store in person, but it became unnecessary to shop online. Why waste time on goods you can’t see, when the goods will be physically in your home within the next few weeks?
Online sales dropped so much that the Internet began to suffer. Shopping websites that had gotten millions of hits per day during previous holiday seasons, now saw just a handful of visitors. The brick-and-mortar stores had folded up long before. Now they were joined by the digital stores.
The stores would do their best to tailor the goods they brought to households. But it was still guesswork, and some people lamented the loss of personal choice. Others, however, didn’t care about personal choice, because something else was taking its place. People were finding that they could learn to like the goods that the stores brought to their homes. The holiday wasn’t about breaking one’s neck to get the best deal. It was about learning to be thankful for what one had.