Bullshit News: Black Friday sales

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The geeks at TechCrunch may be hell on wheels when it comes to covering new computer software and hardware, but “not so much” when it comes to covering the economy.

Unless your idea of “news you can use” is the kind of shameless stock market cheerleading which is only good for getting on the wrong side of a bad trade, underpinning yet another knowing lie by a political hooker, or making overworked Americans feel like they’re coming up short.

The kind of regurgitated economic journalism TechCrunch just vomited into the public forum pisses me off to no end, because I covered economic indicators in Washington, D.C., back in the day. And I know that this type of overly rosy economic story is a plague on Americans of every income and background, because it makes the average person feel like a loser by implying everyone else is doing better than they really are.

It’s not true. The economy sucks for everyone but the top 10 percent and has for about a decade now. The rest of us are all struggling. 

You are not alone.

TechCrunch implied otherwise with this misleading economic headline for the critical Thanksgiving weekend sales period: “Thanksgiving/Black Friday Online Sales Hit $4.5B, 34% Of Purchases Made On Mobile.”

They followed it up in the body of the story published Nov. 28 with a lede built around a sin of omission. By focusing solely on the natural gravitation to online shopping, instead of the decline in holiday spending which actually occurred on Black Friday, they turned the frown that was the biggest shopping day of the year upside down.

The result was a story which falsely implied to many casual readers that Americans spent more this Thanksgiving weekend and our economy has been thriving.

The painful reality is that they didn’t and it’s not.

Consumers actually spent 6 percent less on Black Friday 2015 than the same day a year ago, by my calculations of the relevant data from ShopperTrak and Adobe. Total purchases on Nov. 27, both online and in person, fell to $13.14 billion from $14 billion. 

TechCrunch never bothered to compile that collective data, much less share it with its readers. Neither did dozens of other news organizations.

The same dynamic was true of the smaller spends on Thanksgiving Day itself.

The only part of the TechCrunch story which is both contextually accurate and responsible is that Americans are indeed doing more of their shopping online now than they did last year, or in prehistoric times for that matter. They’re also outspending every species of dinosaur.

None of which is any kind of a surprise. People have been spending more online with each passing year since financial institutions began facilitating Internet purchases. So fugging what?

If they stopped – that would be news.

The continuing gravitation toward online shopping is about as big a revelation as learning that more people are playing games online now than using game boards; or more airline passengers are booking their flights online than doing so in the offices of travel agents; or more people are now communicating via email instead of etching messages in stone or relying on smoke signals.

To borrow a line from the cattle world, that kind of “news” is about as useful as teats on a bull.

TechCrunch might just as well write a story about the tremendous disparity between the percentage of smart phone users who utilize their devices for things beside phone calls compared to those who still have rotary phones.

The gravitation to online shopping they chose to focus on is that fuggin meaningless.

The painful truth of what really happened during the crucial Black Friday consumer spending period is buried much lower in the Tech Crunch story, where it serves as a kind of ethical fig-leaf for the propagandists who wrote it. Apparently, the overall decline in spending wasn’t important enough in their eyes to mention in the headline or lede.

This is what those lower paragraphs say:
“The number of people buying goods online and by mobile during the holiday season continues to grow, but the average value of what they are buying may be falling.”

You have to love the apologetic use of the word “may” in the sentence above. It suggests the market cheerleader who wrote this drek is afraid to say anything about our economy that even remotely represents a painful truth. Curiously, they didn’t feel similarly compelled to use the word “may” when they were trumpeting the entirely predictable rise in online consumer activity in their lede and headline.

Here’s the rest of the buried gold in this fatally flawed story:

“The average spend per order on Thursday was $123.45. That’s down from $125.25 a year ago, and nearly $10 less than 2013, when the average basket value was $132.”

Down. As in “bad.” As in the opposite of growth. Also known as “contraction.”

The word “may” doesn’t come into it.

Not only did Americans spend less this Black Friday, but the depth of the decline was artificially muted by the failure of ShopperTrak and Adobe to adjust their data for population growth and the falling value of the dollar.  Those factors absolutely dictate that more must be spent each successive Black Friday just to break-even with the prior year.

However, instead of telling us what breakeven was this year, their economists pretended it was zero. That’s another sin of omission.

Economic reports which fail to adjust for those kind of factors are already fixed in a way that makes both negative and positive reports look better than they really are to the average reader. The folks posting comments about this TechCrunch story were no exception – some seemed to think it was about some kind of growth in overall spending.

“Record number of Americans buy stuff they don’t need and pay for it with money they don’t have,” posted one reader who identified himself as Rob Schmidt. “Film at eleven.”

You can’t blame Mr. Schmidt for not reading deeper into the Tech Crunch story, because that’s how most people consume their economic news – headlines  and ledes. No one is more aware of this phenomenon than those of us who have written these stories.

So what does the decline in Black Friday spending which just occurred really signal?

It tells us that our labor market still sucks six years after the official end of The Great Recession, as does job security and economic confidence. Just as most of you thought it did based on what’s happening with you and your circle of friends.

That’s the kind of public service reporting we’re not getting from many of our economic journalists.

The beneficiaries of the status quo at places like TechCrunch cannot be trusted to tell us that political hookers around the world, and their masters in the out-of-control financial sector, are creating money like it’s going out of style. They’ve created a global debt of more than $230 trillion with their synthetic investment vehicles on a planet with a global GDP of just $78 trillion. They’re destroying the value of money in the process.

Case in point, the U.S. dollar. It purchases 99.54 cents worth of the same goods and services today it bought just last year, and 79.42 cents of what it did in 2004. But you don’t need to know those kinds of painful truth to function as an informed citizen of this fading democracy, according to TechCrunch and those like it. All you need to know is that everything is great.

This kind of knowing bullshit is to be expected in a society where publicly traded corporations like Wells Fargo continue to cut employee headcount when they can’t produce the 8 percent or more of annual organic profit growth that investors insist upon by playing by the rules. It’s almost funny when the same employers and chief executive officers who engage in that kind of cheating simultaneously make public statements expressing wonder at the smaller number of middle class families now buying homes. The very middle class families they’ve bled white while taking more and more of the revenue pie for themselves.

The housing market is a key component of the U.S. economy, which the current generation of CEOs has undermined by reducing worker job security to juice their quarterly earnings. One of the unintended consequences of all this collective Corporate Body English is an economic climate in which it’s just downright stupid for many workers to make a 30 year mortgage commitment to a single geographic area. Especially those with highly specialized degrees that are rarely needed by more than one employer in a single area.

Don’t look for those stories from the market cheerleaders who pass for economic journalists in the news industry today. All is well, according to them.

The economy and labor market are humming along. Just not for you and those you know.

Because you’re screwed up. You’re a loser.

Which means you better be quiet and let the so-called “winners” talk.

What a joke (snort).

Winners? 

The members of this failed generation of treasonous business leaders are anything but winners. As they know better than anyone.