Those allergic to Black Friday crowds — or who wait to stay from the Ferguson protesters shutting down shopping malls in an attempt to "#BoycottBlackFriday" — can take refuge in Cyber Monday. If one's employer offers Web access, an entire Internet's worth of sales awaits.
But regardless of their motivation, those who seek one deals on Samsung 55-inch Ultra HD TVs or Nest Thermostats should know: Unlike the century-long evolution of Black Friday, Cyber Monday is not the organic development of retailers who realized there was money to be made online on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Rather, it is the nine-year-old brainchild of the National Retail Federation (NRF) — a powerful lobbying group that often supports right-leaning causes such as the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act and anti-union attempts to limit the power of the National Labor Relations Board.
It all started in 2005 — with a press release.
"While traditional retailers will be monitoring store traffic and sales on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), online retailers have set their sights on something different: Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is quickly becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year," announced Shop.org, a branch of the NRF that serves online retailers. "For the past few years, online retailers have found that sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving have been creeping higher, giving retailers an additional reason to be jolly during the ceremonial kickoff to the holiday season."
The New York Times, though calling Cyber Monday a "legitimate trend," was initially cynical.
"Because the world needs another Officially Named shopping day, the people who dreamed up Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers hope to turn a profit) have created a nickname for the following Monday," the paper wrote at the time. "Hence the catchy Cyber Monday, so called because millions of productive Americans, fresh off a weekend at the mall, are expected to return to work and their high-speed Internet connections on Nov. 28 and spend the day buying what they liked in all those stores."
The snark wouldn't last. In 2010, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day of the year. The gimmick was worth $1.5 billion in 2012 — a newly minted American tradition anyone able to get online at work could honor.
- On Obamacare: "While some elements supported by NRF can be seen in the Affordable Care Act, NRF opposed passage because of the law’s failure to adequately address health care costs and its job-killing employer mandate. NRF has worked to repeal the most onerous provisions of the health care law, such as the employer mandate, but those efforts have not yet succeeded."
- On unions: "NRF is working in court and Congress to overturn a recent series of highly politicized NLRB decisions that would make it easier to unionize retail stores."
- On renewable fuel: "The Renewable Fuel Standard is a federal program that requires energy companies to blend billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline supply each year. ... [NRF affiliate National Council of Chain Restaurants] has led the chain restaurant industry’s efforts to have the Renewable Fuel Standard either repealed or rolled back, arguing that corn and soybeans should be used for food rather than fuel."
The NRF is not right-leaning on all issues. The trade association supports immigration reform and credit card swipe-fee reform that could benefit small businesses as much as major corporations. And it's facing new pressure from within to moderate its stance on other issues, like opposing an increase in the federal minimum wage.
But the trade association — which spent more than $3.5 million on lobbying in 2012 — often can be found more often on the red side of the aisle.
While supporting some Democratic politicians such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chuck Rangel (D-N.Y.), RetailPAC, the NRF's political action committee, has donated to some of Congress's most visible conservatives. These include: House speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).
And then there's Wal-Mart. Not long before the company became the target of labor advocates around the world, the NRF celebrated its relationship with the Walton family.
“Wal-Mart has joined the National Retail Federation,” Stephen Schatz, a NRF spokesman, said last year. “We are pleased to have them as a partner with the over 10,000 other NRF members who are advocating on behalf of an industry sector that creates good jobs, gives back to the communities they serve, leads in digital innovation and drives our national economy.”
Today, the anti-Black Friday campaign will continue with #BoycottCyberMonday." As Reverend Samuel Mosteller of Atlanta told News 95.5: “The only time you white folks pay any attention to us is if we burn something down – or stop spending money.”