Black Friday is known for its ability to bring the crazy out of people and this year was no different! Read about the evolution of these console launches and how diehard video gamers spent Thanksgiving sleeping in a parking lot for the CHANCE to purchase either a Sony Playstation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X/S.
Let's be honest, as we approach the end of the year it is totally ok to admit how terrible it has been.
A global pandemic, a nearly year long lockdown and a deep recession to go with it, 2020 is definitely a year I will be happy to see end next month.
However, there have been a few rays of sunshine to keep our spirits up while we wait COVID-19 out. Early November saw the two biggest companies in the video game industry, Microsoft and Sony, release their highly anticipated next generation gaming consoles. There is only one small, tiny, problem. No one can get them!
Xbox Series S and Series X
Over the last few weeks since launch day, there has been a ton of speculation as to the scarcity of these new systems, but I think once you had had time to really sit and give it some thought you will realize it is a combination of a lot of things.
For one, there is a global pandemic that has kept people locked up in their homes for almost a year. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the idea of having a brand new gaming console sounds terrific. Add the fact that the manufacturers were willing to do whatever necessary to make this their biggest releases in history and you are starting to get the picture.
In recent interviews with the press, executives at Sony made it clear that one of their biggest concerns of launching a product of this magnitude during a pandemic was that it wouldn't have enough anticipation or ability to compete with the serious issues facing the world today. How Sony nor Microsoft couldn't see that people were going to scoop these devices up at record breaking speeds is mind-bending. By June of this year video game sales were already on the road to having record breaking sales, imagine what demand would be like 6 months later?!
There is also one more aspect to this whole release that may not have been considered by everybody when planning this launch and that is the involvement of professional scalpers and their use of cutting edge technology to "game" the system (no pun intended). Scalpers. Some of the worst of the worst, especially with these consoles.
You might be asking how Scalpers could play such a huge role in the release of a video game system. Well, let me tell you. There are two ways to purchase one of these devices, either online or in person at a retailer. Scalpers use superior technology to gain an unfair advantage during the purchase process. By using "bots", basically computer software that allows them to buy dozens (or more) consoles at speeds a human is not capable of doing, they are able to exponentially grow the demand and price of these products.
**Each console is priced at $499 USD and is currently being scalped on Ebay for $1000-$2000 USD. There are thousands of units for sale at these prices and even more shockingly, have sold at these inflated prices to desperate people trying to save Christmas**
While you might not think this is a huge deal, it actually did become one, before the devices were even actually sold. Before launch day in November both Microsoft and Sony had a pre order window that allowed customers a chance to pre purchase the device of their choice.
However, there was not an unlimited amount of consoles available meaning not everyone could have one that wanted one (another aspect that makes you wonder about the manufactures role in the problem). There is no good explanation as to why Sony and Microsoft would limit their preorders except to make the products scarce and super valuable. Consumers would definitely be willing to wait longer to get the console in their hands if it meant they were guaranteed to get one.
As 2020 moved along and we got closer to preorder day, the hype for the release of both consoles began to grow rapidly. People were getting desperate for something new, especially with the extended lockdowns! Fast forward to mid September when preorder day finally came. Reports of limited availability had been circulating for months and fans began to really get worried they would not be able to get one.
Any doubt that this release was going to be record breaking, or interfered with by scalpers, immediately dissipated when preorders began and systems crashed all over. Some chose to camp in Gamestop parking lots for the chance to place one of the coveted orders. The result left a lot of people upset and without a reservation for a console.
*Retailers like Target, Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy were completely inundated by bots and scalpers managed to walk away with the lions share of devices. We could spend hours talking about the awfulness of an online release like this but i can sum it up for you quickly today, it sucked. A large portion of people never even had the chance to add the console to their cart and many could not even get the websites to load due to the massive server overload caused by bot traffic (bots can add a product to cart and successfully checkout before a human even loads the darn product page).
If you do a quick search on Google you will find countless videos of people's experience. Its a site to see for sure.
Release Day Nightmare
Between the time preorders were taken and release day in November, each manufacturer made sure to continue hyping their products with constant advertisements, commercials, and news of "exclusive" games that would only be available for either PS5 or Xbox Series X. However, it is important to note that two of the biggest games in the world, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and Assassin's Creed Valhalla would be available on both platforms.
If you are a part of the gaming community then you were keenly aware of reports of continued scarcity and the added stress of professional scalpers, which added serious fuel to the fire as we approached launch day. So much so that many people made it clear that they intended to sleep outside of Gamestop for a minimum of 12 hours to heighten their chances of grabbing a console.
Unfortunately, launch day was just as crazy and way more people went home empty handed than those who were actually able to get their hands on one of these highly coveted systems. There were even reports of fights in the parking lots, people who cut the line and those who came just to obtain a console to sell for 2-3x its value.
I should mention that a lot of people were able to get the system of their choice and went home to promptly begin gaming but many more did not.
Both consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X were instant sellouts and gamers would not have another chance to purchase either system until the holiday season.
**Again, major retailers Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Amazon all had serious issues with their websites leaving many people distraught over their continued lack of success in obtaining a console. To add insult to injury, there were reports of people successfully checking out only to get a cancellation email hours later due to the product being "oversold."
How can billion dollar companies fail to adopt measures to prevent bot activity and ensure their actual customers are cared for? The simple, callous, New York answer is money. A sale is a sale is a sale. Why would Walmart care if scalper man buys 100 units leaving poor Timmy with coal under the tree? It's sad but the truth. Hopefully one day there will be a company of this magnitude that actually cares about its customers.
Before we move on to Black Friday, I should mention that the period between launch day (11/10-11/12) and Black Friday (11/27), it became clear to millions (yes, millions!) of people that they might not actually be able to get one of these consoles before Christmas. Lots of parents began to fear disappointing their kids, or spouses, in what has been an already tremendously difficult year and that is how we ended up with the situation that occurred during Black Friday 2020.
Gamers Sleeping Outside Gamestop On Thanksgiving
Black Friday Chaos
For the record, i would like to say that I think Black Friday encompasses everything that is wrong with America and i am a capitalist, but seriously its embarrassing.
This year Black Friday was more like two weeks if you include Cyber Monday. Retailers were taking advantage of the fact that the majority of Americans are still stuck at home with little to do other than spend money online.
Sony and Microsoft announced that there would be "plenty" of stock available for the holiday season, which is just insulting given how everything has gone since September.
Retailers began advertising deep deep discounts on every category of product and announced plans to conduct flash sales almost every day of the week of Thanksgiving leading up to Black Friday. While consoles were not being discounted as part of the sale, they would still be available and this would be the last chance to get one before Christmas(and according to reports from Sony and Microsoft product shortages could last well into 2021).
One particular retailer, Gamestop, announced plans to have both PS5 and Xbox Series X available in limited quantities at all of their locations nationwide on Black Friday. When they say limited they mean 2 to 4 of each device per store. Yes, 2 as in the number after 1 and before 3. One of their biggest retailers during the holiday season would have a handful of consoles and hundreds of thousands of people looking to buy them. This wasn't a sale anymore it was a lottery!
Keep in mind, if you go to Ebay or any one of the numerous secondary market sites online, you have the pleasure of buying a console with no wait or fuss, for $1000-$2000 USD! Consoles that cost $499 were being scalped for 2-3x their MSRP and the scalpers were able to get thousands of systems. Scalping is totally unfair, especially during a pandemic and despite my capitalist views, really should not be legal. But it is.
So here we are rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, 10 months into a seemingly never-ending pandemic, and people were faced with the choice between spending the holiday with their family or waiting outside in a parking lot for upwards of 24 hours to get either PS5 of Xbox Series X. Do I really need to ask you what choice most people made? Yes, people chose to forego their Thanksgiving plans and instead set up tents, cots or just sleep on the ground outside their local Gamestop location. This is truly madness.
Thanks to the technology age lots of potential buyers chose to monetize their experience by streaming live on popular social media platforms like Youtube and Instagram.
Oh, i forgot to mention, this year Gamestop decided to close on Thanksgiving, so those who wanted to guarantee themselves a console had to show up on Wednesday night (WEDNESDAY!!!) and wait until the doors opened on Friday (YES, FRIDAY) morning. Some locations opened promptly at 7am, while others did not open until noon. The result left eager customers spending between 24 and 48 hours on line, in a parking lot, on Thanksgiving.
Should I continue?
Let me remind you that each Gamestop location was allocated between 0 and 10 consoles with the majority of stores having 2 of each console. Common sense would dictate that no more than 10 people maximum would camp outside the store. Wrong! Reports verified with video evidence show that some locations had 100 people waiting for the chance to go home empty handed. I mean really, it sounds ludicrous because it is, its crazy! IF you know that a store only has two of an item you want, and the sale will be first come first served would you wait in line outside behind 90 people? For two days? On thanksgiving? Well, if you had looked you would have found them at every Gamestop in America.
If you are desperate to get your hands on either the Playstation 5, or Xbox Series X, and have not been able to do so yet, there is still time to do so. All you have to do is be incredibly lucky, I mean like miracle status and you should have no problem! Seriously though, there are still plenty of retailers that will have at least a handful of systems in stock before Dec 25th, you will just have to be vigilant and make securing it a top priority if you really want that console under the tree this year.
Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.
In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.
In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.
But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.
Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.
In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.
Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.
Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:
1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan
2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.
3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.
4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.
5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.
Here are charities offering support in Haiti:
1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.
2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.
3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.
4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.
When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.
Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.
The aesthetics were undeniably luxe and historic. The campaign showcased the rarely-seen Basquiat painting Equals Pi (1982), which the brand acquired for the background's proximity to its distinctive Tiffany blue. Also notably historic is that Beyoncé was the first Black woman to wear the 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond.
Before Beyoncé, the only other stars to wear the yellow diamond were Mary Whitehouse, wife of American diplomat Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse, Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn, and singer Lady Gaga.
"Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the epitome of the modern love story …. Love is the diamond that the jewelry and art decorate," said the press release accompanying the campaign.
The campaign, titled "About Love," is stunning and has both classic and contemporary references. The image of the couple posing in front of high art recalled the iconic stills from their "APESHIT" music video, for which they famously rented out the Louvre and posed in front of the Mona Lisa.
THE CARTERS - APESHIT (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Their "APESHIT" photo made a giant cultural impact for its juxtaposition of Western beauty and Blackness. Tiffany's campaign seemed to have similar goals — showcasing Beyoncé and Jay Z as the peak of luxury, this time juxtaposing the Basquiat and the Tiffany diamond.
As a Black couple, their appearance in such a luxury campaign was a big move for representation, but in a post 2020 landscape, there was an outcry of criticism.
Despite the aesthetic beauty of the image, the high capitalist undertones didn't sit right with some on the internet — largely younger demographics. Though this campaign was an effort by Tiffany's to appeal to younger audiences and make the brand feel more relevant, Twitter's verdict was clear: a blood diamond wasn't the way to go.
The diamond, which was mined in South Africa in 1877, comes from origins laden in the implications of colonialism. The practice of mining in South Africa at the time was exploitative and destructive, eschewing the livelihoods and safety of African miners and their communities for... what? Money? So Tiffany could try to sell us some dream of affluence using Black celebrities as to "Blackwash" the history behind their treasured piece?
The Washington Post also had some choice words, saying: "Its campaign does not celebrate Black liberation — it elevates a painful symbol of colonialism. It presents an ostentatious display of wealth as a sign of progress in an age when Black Americans possess just 4 percent of the United States's total household wealth. If Black success is defined by being paid to wear White people's large colonial diamonds, then we are truly still in the sunken place."
Alongside the campaign, Tiffany & Co have promised to donate $2 million to HBCUs to fund scholarships and internships. But this measly amount (considering the multi-billion dollar net worth behind LVMH) is not enough to cover up that, despite their performative efforts to promote "diversity," Tiffany's is entrenched in a colonial history that neither beauty nor Beyonce can make us ignore.
While Black representation has been increasing over the past few years, the question of how we are represented is starting to be considered with more nuance. And as we examine the structures of wealth and hierarchical values, many people are starting to ask whether these should be the standards we aspire to anymore.
Jay Z and Beyoncé have come under fire before for their promotion of Black Capitalist values — which the kids don't seem to want. Jay Z especially seems invested in the trappings of traditional (read: white) success and wealth. His cannabis line recently unveiled a campaign based on the work Slim Aarons — which was famously focused on "attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places" — and its unashamed opulence raised some eyebrows.
Images like this aren't as revolutionary as they once might have been since they reinforce the status quo and tell marginalized people to reach for the same luxuries and lifestyles deemed aspirational by the people who have oppressed them.
Anti-capitalist theory has been around as long as capitalism has, but younger generations are more likely to question the status quo — even when it comes packed with Basquiat and Beyoncé.
The conversation about the Tiffany campaign is indicative of how Gen Z thinks differently about money and what it means to them. They are less likely to be seduced by the luster of the aspirational, and more receptive to relatability.
No more does financial literacy seem restricted to the pretentious or the elite — we get it, finance bros; you love capitalism. With Cleo, understanding your money is something that can align users with their values.
And those values don't look like blood diamonds or corporate pandering.
- Sorry, Beyoncé, but Tiffany's blood diamonds aren't a girl's best friend - Washington Post
- The Black-white wealth gap left Black households more vulnerable — Brookings
- The Unashamed Opulence of Jay Z's Luxury Cannabis-Themed Slim Aarons Photoshoot — Popdust
- ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE DOING ATTRACTIVE THINGS IN ATTRACTIVE PLACES WITH SLIM AARONS — Elle Decor
Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.
From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.
1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance
If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.
2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping
All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.
camping road tripConde Nast Traveler
If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).
3. Bring Food From Home
Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.
Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.
4. Avoid Tolls
Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).
You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.
Road TripThe Orange Backpack
5. Save on Gas
Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.
6. Get a National Park Pass
All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.