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 two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.
What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.
The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.
There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!
Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.
Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”
While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.
That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying
the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.
This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.
Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.
That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?
Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”
While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."
In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.
We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.
As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.
What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.
The rising trend of pet-friendly offices is part of the effort to incentivize employees to come back to work in person. Many companies completely embraced the remote-friendly convenience of WFH. Digital nomad culture emerged and “second cities” arose when people exited New York, San Francisco, and LA, and headed to Denver, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh.
But now, employees and employers have a choice to make. The question now is: to return or not to return to the office? This is no longer about forcing employees to commute. Post The Great Resignation, employees feel more empowered to leave in-person positions and seek out remote jobs. So if offices want people to return, they’ve got to do a ton to entice their employees.
Some huge companies with giant operating budgets are not worried. With major perks like shiny facilities and full-service food bars, they feel comfortable requiring in-office work days — even if it’s for a hybrid week. But the solution might be simpler: pet-friendly workplaces.
The Allure of Pet-Friendly Offices
According to the Washington Post, pet-friendly workplaces are becoming a common solution to improve employee morale and appease the rising number of pandemic pet owners. “As offices start reopening and thousands of workers are being called back for the first time in two years, some companies are allowing employees to bring their pets. About 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many workers say they find pet-friendly environments an important perk for their new furry family members. A recent survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital, owned by Mars Inc., showed that 57 percent of the 1,500 pet owners polled said they would be happiest returning to a pet-friendly workplace. Half of the 500 top executives surveyed said they are planning to allow pets at the office. Tech companies including Google, Amazon, and Uber plan to continue to allow dogs at their offices, even with their flexible office policies.”
With so many people adopting and fostering since the pandemic, becoming a pet parent is a trend. And to welcome these new additions into people’s lives, it makes sense for some workplaces to welcome them into the office.
After spending unlimited amounts of time at home, many pets grew greatly attached to their “parents” — and pet-parents feel the same about their pets. Rather than keeping them locked in the house while their caretakers head off to work, this is a mutually beneficial solution to the current separation anxiety faced by pets.
Pets have also been shown to boost happiness in pet owners. According to heart.org, “Studies show that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; ease loneliness; encourage exercise and improve your overall health. For example, people with dogs tend to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop heart disease. Just playing with a dog has been shown to raise levels of the feel-good brain chemicals oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding for both the person and their pet.” Most likely, this might have a similar effect on people who bond with animals at work that don’t even belong to them, lending an overall mood boost to the office.
The controversy behind pet-friendly workplaces
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the prospect. Some would rather keep the office separate from their personal lives. Some are allergic to pets. And some people simply don’t like animals.
Offices considering pet-friendly policies are weighing the pros and cons to keep everyone happy. According to the Washington Post, clear guidelines and communication can increase the chances of success.
“Before making the jump, pet experts say that leaders should first understand whether their employees have interest in, or strong feelings against, having a pet-friendly office. Doing an anonymous survey may allow employees to freely share thoughts on the matter.”
Overall, the key to a policy like this is flexibility. “Be ready to adjust: Above all, pet-friendly offices should be ready to listen and adjust their policies as they go. What works for one office may not work for another, but experts say proper planning can lessen much of the burden.”
Ensure your office is actually suited to the pets you want to welcome. “A well-developed pet-friendly office should be both safe and welcoming to pets. That means companies should consider blocking off areas that could be dangerous to pets as well as making sure pets have access to clean water, food, and places to rest.”
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