A Black Friday Like no Other

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It’s Black Friday, the typical start of the holiday shopping season. But as with so many other things, this year’s version will not look like it usually does.

Black Friday has traditionally been about in-person shopping. “Touching stuff, browsing for the family, the whole experience: Those are literally all of the things we’re telling people to avoid,” Sapna Maheshwari, who covers retail for The Times, told me.

Some Americans will still go out today. Many already went to malls last weekend to get ahead of potential holiday crowds, according to The Wall Street Journal. But others are following the advice of public health experts and moving even more of their shopping online.

And retailers are adjusting. Macy’s, for example, has turned at least two of its locations — in Delaware and Colorado — into fulfillment centers, where employees process orders to ensure faster delivery, and where customers can pick up online purchases. In Ohio, Amazon opened a fulfillment center earlier this month and the company has gone on a hiring spree this year, bringing its global work force to more than 1.2 million people.

The big question is how many of the pandemic shopping habits will endure. Some of them most likely will, retail analysts say. “A lot of people have learned how to online shop this year, just like they learned how to Zoom and FaceTime with their families,” Sapna says.

But it’s also important not to exaggerate the trend. In-person shopping is still an enjoyable experience. Many people will miss it this weekend — and will happily return to it once a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.

For more: The Times is covering Black Friday around the U.S. today.

  • A 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling this week that rejected New York’s coronavirus restrictions on religious services exposed new dividing lines at the court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast the decisive vote — and it was almost certainly a taste of things to come.

  • An Algerian couple who survived the capsizing of a boat on its way from Libya to Europe last month will be reunited with their wedding rings, which rescuers found in a backpack floating in the Mediterranean.

  • The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York was confined to a single city block, only a snippet of its traditional 2.5-mile route. There were no high school bands, and about 130 balloon handlers instead of the usual 2,000.

  • Archaeologists found a grave and more than 12,000 artifacts, including an ink bottle, doll fragments and coins, at the site of a historic Black church in Colonial Williamsburg.

Modern Love: A daughter finds a connection to her lost father in chicken nuggets.

From Opinion: If you missed hugging your loved ones on Thanksgiving, this short documentary about family, music and America may help.

Lives Lived: James Wolfensohn escaped a financially pinched Australian childhood to become a top Wall Street deal maker and a two-term president of the World Bank. And in 1956, he fenced at the Olympics. He has died at 86.

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Many people will still be stuck at home for much of the next few months. So we asked Christine Cyr Clisset, an editor at Wirecutter, for suggestions of holiday gifts that will make those months more tolerable. Here’s her advice:

Low-cost options. A portable phone charger or touchscreen gloves can cost less than $30 and can help you be outdoors. An apron or pepper mill can spruce up your kitchen, and a smart bulb can improve a room’s ambience.

Connect with others. The Google Nest Hub Max and Alexa Echo Show 8 offer intuitive ways for younger children or less tech-savvy people to have virtual conversations. One Wirecutter editor uses the Nest Hub Max to bake bread with her uncle.

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was normally. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.

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