Every Wednesday Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, an opinion column about consumer technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

Black FridayDear Ross,

As a valued customer, we'd like to inform you of some changes that we'll be making to our Black Friday program this year.

—Shopping site non-aggression: For the past few years, various Web sites have offered details of Black Friday products and pricing in some cases weeks before these products go on sale. We realize that all of our competitors are going to have pretty much the same stuff on sale. The brands may be different, but with a 70 percent discount, most people couldn't care less. In any case, we're not going to threaten to sue Web sites that publish these products and prices. All in all, it's probably not a bad thing to be on good terms with people directing traffic to our store on Black Friday.

—Late openings: On Black Friday, our stores will open at 10 AM in recognition that many of our customers travel home from relatives in a tryptophan-induced stupor on Thanksgiving. Your dollars aren't worth appreciably less five hours earlier, and we'd like to give plenty of time for all the shoppers coming from the three or four 5 AM openings all competing with each other to converge at our stores for the 10 AM openings.


?Calming the crowds. After the multimillion-dollar lawsuit judgment entered last year against one of our competitors following a customer injury in the mad rush for a $2.47 DVD recorder, we will distribute vouchers that guarantee customers one of the available products in stock. In addition, all customers who are present at the time of opening will receive a rain check for one Black Friday promotional product if they purchase at least $100 worth of other products. We believe in the value of creating excitement in our stores without reenacting the final battle scene from Braveheart.

?Preferred Priority program: Our stores will embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving by offering priority to Black Friday products to customers using our in-store and online customer loyalty program. Why make you wait in line for eight hours when you could be buying merchandise from us at home? In addition to cutting down on lines and frustration, this will help ensure that our best customers get our best prices in the way that?s best for them. If you?ve been one of our top online customers but live 80 miles away and can?t drive, we really don?t see the need to have you show your face one day out of the year by offering some deals only in stores.

Black Friday products are available for only a few hours, but the kind of respect for customers shown by sparing them a frigid sleepless night or favoring a random eBay power seller to them can build lifetime loyalty. From everyone at our company, have a safe and happy holiday season.


Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld, a division of market research and analysis provider The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On, however, are his own. Feedback is welcome at fliptheswitch@gmail.com.