This Thanksgiving break was all about being crazy. The first few days were about rallying support from my friends for the impending Black Friday madness. After having worked in credit card fraud and account hacking for more than a year, I have always associated Black Fridays with midnight escalations about machine learning models going haywire. I have only heard of doorbusting- people trampling over each other to get deals. I wanted to be one of those crazy people too though I don't really have to try.
In my course work, I study this very interesting concept called Mental Accounting. It is about how people create different pockets of accounts in their head that would justify their spending. Much of Black Friday is about how retailers screw with people's head and make them re-adjust these mental accounting pockets. There is also something called time discounting, where people over estimate the utility of the product that they buy. In fact, it is amazing that there is an entire branch of science to see how retailers can make money by messing up the weaklings' heads. I will leave the digression for a different post. Interested folks can read this very influential paper here
Despite the fact that I am aware of the evil machinations of these deals, I am totally okay with them retailers screwing up with my head. It reminds me of an interpretation that one of my professors talked about in his class and I could totally relate to. When people sold Britannica Encyclopedia (the physical hardbound ones), they weren't selling Encyclopedias; they were selling hope, pride of having a smart kid around in the house and a brighter future that the encyclopedias, which were destined to be unopened, promised. In a non unrelated way, I willingly let these retailers seduce me with their wares, the bargains and the promise of a better life that comes along with owning a pair of fluffy earmuff. Ok, before I meander further, let us say that the monster inside me was fanned and prepped up during the week by the mass emails and the red tags on these emails, not to mention the other factors such as months of anticipating and actually abstaining from Amazon. I unleashed myself in the malls of Pittsburgh.
If only I can track how many resolutions I made, and failed on the day. My knees went weak and my ears went to the happy hot stage (that generally happens in the quizzes) when I was in the mall full of 75% off deals. To cut the story short, it was a long night of pretzels, Oh-so-glorious, wonderstruck shopping and my endorphin splashing the roofs of all the shops I went to. I remember this block from Tintin and the Cigars of Pharaoh.
We spent the night in JC Penney and Macy's cleaning out the shelves. I can attach a pictorial evidence, but I shan't for reasons that will remain undisclosed.
The second part of Thanksgiving was spent working like a demented person. I started at 10 PM Friday night and didn't realize that it was 5 AM the next day. I was just following hunches and digging data feeling like a detective. This has never happened in history (the working hard part, not feeling like a detective part) and hey, academic work can be this cool! There is something so pleasurable in working hard. And the best part in this is that, unlike shopping, there is no aftermath of guilt. I have been uber productive in the holidays that I took some time off today to write.
Actually, I should also take a moment in the last few hours of Thanksgiving break to think about things I am thankful for, just to live up to the spirit of the holiday, if the spirit of the holiday is not just shopping. I am actually thankful to cool Orwellian paper titles that put me on track to this wonderful adventure, to people who were once strangers, their continuing kindness and incredible support. Also, here is a wish to more of the non-quizzical, non-black Friday, but, academic "happy-hot-ear" moments that just make me grin into hours after they happen.