Black Friday Shopping Tradition Spreads Around The World
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Yesterday was Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving when U.S. shoppers descend on stores and malls to try and take advantage of pre-Christmas discounts. But that ritual seems to be spreading around the world, even to places that don't have, you know, American Thanksgiving. John Otis reports from Bogota, Colombia.
JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Ahead of Black Friday, Colombian newspapers, TV and radio were dominated by ads for everything from high-definition TVs to low-flow toilets.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Spanish).
OTIS: Black Friday began here four years ago. One of its promoters, Juan Ernesto Parra of the Colombian Federation of Retailers, says the event has been so successful that they've expanded on the original concept.
JUAN ERNESTO PARRA: Well, here in Colombia, we start two days - Black Friday in June and in November.
OTIS: There's two Black Fridays.
PARRA: Yes (laughter).
OTIS: So you've really imported this whole hog.
OTIS: How many Cyber Mondays are there?
PARRA: We have two on the year, yeah.
OTIS: Two Cyber Mondays as well.
OTIS: Other imports include Halloween and Valentine's Day. Erika Avila, a Colombian lawyer who used to work at the U.S. embassy, says that in search of profits, stores will appropriate almost any foreign holiday or event.
ERIKA AVILA: Winter sale - we don't have a winter like you do in the U.S. but we still have the winter sale. And we have the end-of-summer sale, which to me makes no sense.
OTIS: Because you don't have a summer either.
AVILA: We don't have a summer either.
OTIS: But even though Thanksgiving is arguably the most altruistic and commercial-free holiday in the U.S., Colombia and most other countries ignore it. Here in Bogota, it's just a normal day. If you manage to find a turkey, Colombian guests will arrive late for the feast because most have to work. And they might not know why they were invited in the first place.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).
OTIS: (Speaking Spanish).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: No.
OTIS: These Black Friday shoppers at a Bogota mall knew all about store discounts but were clueless about the significance of the previous day. Perhaps that makes sense. Shopping is universal while Thanksgiving is a venerable chapter of U.S. history. What's more, Columbia already has a lot of days off - 18 of them, which puts it in the top tier of countries with the most public holidays. As for giving thanks, Avila says Colombians may do so more than Americans.
AVILA: We have our families nearby, and we get together often. And there's a lot of opportunities here to go and pray and thank God. When you go to churches on Sunday, they're packed with people. So I think the need for Thanksgiving here is not as evident as it may be in the states.
OTIS: However, I did find one Bogota spot that has embraced Thanksgiving.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Spanish).
OTIS: This is the kitchen of the JW Marriott Hotel. Six turkeys are roasting, and the cooks are making stuffing.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Onion, nuts and berries - cranberries.
OTIS: This year, the Marriott put on a lavish Thanksgiving dinner, which quickly sold out. That said, nearly all of the diners were Americans. For NPR News, I'm John Otis in Bogota. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.