It is, somewhat shockingly, just a few days before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how this happened. Perhaps because I’ve been even more of a homebody than usual this past 8 weeks, I’ve missed the traditional warning signs:
- Williams-Sonoma window-displays featuring festive, faux-gourd soup tureens and French porcelain turkey-shaped gravy boats.
- Pre-lit plastic Christmas Trees and ornaments the size of volleyballs, available at Costco about the same time most of us start thinking about Halloween costumes for the kids.
- Garish Wal-Mart flyers announcing the opening of Black Friday Sales starting on Thursday Eve, for people who prefer to get trampled on the way to the Xbox section while still digesting their pumpkin pie of gratitude.
Yes, these are the warning shots fired across the bow of Thanksgiving, a holiday that (troubling historical issues aside) seems about as pure as we have. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite of the major holidays because, at its heart, it is about family and friends, good food, the harvest, and appreciating the bounty in our lives that allows our bellies to distend ritually every year. It is about sharing gratitude and pie with those we love.
At Thanksgiving, no gifts are necessary, there is no push to acquire. Thankgiving does not demand a forest-understory of wrapped gifts, or boxes of chocolates and overpriced flowers, or champagne and a floor show, or the chocolate mixed bag of fun size bars from Hershey Corp.
Because Thanksgiving is a major non-commercial holiday only a month from the insanity that is The American Cultural Christmas Event, it is used like a racer’s starting block. Consumerism puts its foot against the starting block of Thanksgiving, using it to spring forward in the push off. Brace yourself, wait for the gun (watch some football if you like while waiting) and then, bam! We’re off, racing towards Christmas spending with all the speed of Usain Bolt. First stop: Black Friday.
Shades of Grey Thursday?
As I’m sure you might guess, I am no fan of Black Friday. An important day for retailers, Black Friday likely got it’s name from police officers in early 1960s Philadelphia who loathed contending with the terrible traffic jams and crowding that the shopping push created in the city.
I have to agree with the initial impulse in the naming. Why anyone would voluntarily wait in a huge-ass line to spend hours crowded cheek-by-jowl with strangers for the privilege of waiting in yet more huge lines and spending money on shit they probably don’t need (and may not even really want) is beyond me. It’s makes as much sense to me as standing out in the rain for 5 hours so that someone can punch you in the head repeatedly.
But that’s me, and while I suspect other readers of this blog may have a similar perspective, nationally I know I my feelings on Black Friday are far from typical. In some quarters, criticizing the entire gimme-gimme-screw-you-Grandma-that’s-my-xBox! culture that seems to have grown up around Black Friday will get you pegged as anti-business or anti-capitalist or anti-American, as if the thing that makes the U.S. great is a 70% discount on a TV manufactured in China. Pshaw.
In the 5 years from 2006 to 2011, Black Friday shoppers have grown from 140 million to 226 million, and each of those customers average nearly $400 in money spent. There are about 238 million people over the age of 18 in the U.S., so I conclude from this that just about everyone thinks Black Friday is freaking awesome.
The National Crime Prevention Council says shoppers need a personal safety plan for Black Friday. I say, if you need a personal safety plan to go to the mall, maybe you should stay home and make a turkey sandwich.
So given my already dubious feelings about Black Friday it really, really chaps my hide that Thanksgiving itself is no longer held immune. Walmart, Sears, Target and others are swooping in, vulture-like, on our Day of Thanks itself, opening at 8 or 9 pm and compelling employees to leave family Thanksgiving dinners for the Walmart Mothership so that customers have an opportunity to grab those plasma TVs at doorbuster prices. The media is calling it Grey Thursday, presumably because Black Thursday was already taken.
We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us
You know why the Big Box Sellers are doing this? They say it’s because shoppers asked them to! “In talking to our customers, we know that the (ad) circulars come out after the leftovers are put away, and millions of our customers are looking to kick-start their shopping, once again, on Thanksgiving night,” says a Walmart statement said.
And it’s true: when a retailer sees customers willing to wait in line for hours to rush the door at midnight, it’s pretty easy to guess that they’d be willing to come in and spend at 8 pm.
So it’s time to take a little personal responsibility here. It’s going to cost Walmart and frenemies a lot of money to staff their giant concrete-block alters to stuff. Target and Walmart are apparently paying employees who work Thanksgiving holiday pay and offering additional employee discounts.
There’s going to be extra security, extra on utilities, extra on labor – all so some of us can opt to ditch our family and score a good deal before the other guy. Walmart has very highly paid people who figure out what practices are profitable. If slapping Thanksgiving up against The Stone Table and gutting it out didn’t pay, they simply wouldn’t do it.
For Walmart et al, it’s simply a matter of the one most important thing – the precious – the dollars: “If online is open, why should brick-and-mortar close just to give away those precious shopping hours to the competition?” asks an industry analyst. (Gollum emphasis added because how could I not, seriously?!)
This, therefore, is my conclusion and my message: all y’all Grey Thursday and Black Friday deal-hunters need to just calm the hell down for a second (or, ideally, twelve hours). Have some turkey, play a board game, watch a football game. Call your friends, hug your family, put on some music. Go around your house and count how many TVs you already have. Hint: if (number of TVs x 200)>(your credit score) do not buy any more TVs!
Go shopping on Friday. Have a blast – get up early, buy a Mrs. Field’s cookie and make a day out of it. Go with friends, keep the economy moving, hunt for parking, be part of the Black Friday tradition. If everyone did this, within two years stores would take Thursday sales off the table, hundreds of thousands of employees would not be pressured to work Thanksgiving, and the discounts would be just as good on Friday.
I cannot emphasize this enough: there is no reason – at all – why a steep discount has to be offered on Thursday instead of Friday. The stores would all adapt if we refused to offer up Thanksgiving to commercialism.
Or, in the words of C. Renee, a Target Employee who has started a Change.org petition to “Save Thanksgiving” responds: “The world won’t end if people have [to] wait 7 more hours to buy useless junk that will be outdated in a year anyway.”
Enough Isn’t Enough
Of course, I don’t expect millions of deal seekers to suddenly give up the hunt and risk letting someone else score the discount they’re looking to nab, but I will ask this: when is it enough?
When will our lives be full and blessed enough that appreciating them as they are, just for a day, will be able to compete with the promise of the new and the shiny and the cheap? How much more of Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to being thankful for what we already have, are we willing to jettison to make time to acquire more and more and more?
I will, as I’m sure you might have guessed, not be out shopping on Thanksgiving. Those of you who enjoy the chaotic competition of the Black Friday and Grey Thursday deal-grabbing/roller-derby, I wish you luck and I implore you to be safe, keep your wallet protected and wear elbow-pads.
Will you be out shopping this Thanksgiving?1
Nailed it! Greed, Material crap, ugliness. . . we are all doomed!
I share your sentiment – I absolutely HATE Black Friday. We usually spend it setting up our tree, drinking cocoa, starting to read the Christmas books. Elf on the Shelf makes his first seasonal appearance after nap time, and we catch up with family we can’t see on Thursday. It’s how I want things. And dang it, I’m bitchy enough to crab if I don’t get my way.
This year though, it’s different: I’m actually going to the local Kohl’s for a few things. They sent out $10 off any order, and my kids both want one rather large present each – both are marked down to $19.99 on Black Friday. I am going in, getting both items for $20 and tax, and I am leaving. I refuse to engage in any other madness. Those presents will mark the end of shopping for me – anything else that comes up is either ordered on Amazon, or made.
We actually decided this year, because my kids get SO MUCH (thank you grandparents, aunts and uncles, but…please…one gift!) from the other family members that Momma and Daddy are going to only give three gifts, representative of the Three Wise men (We’re church goers here). Santa will bring a want, a need, and something to read. Momma and Daddy provide some fun gifts – but to us, the holiday is so much more than family, and heavily participating in Black Friday compromises my spiritual well being, as well as the spiritual aspect of the season for me.
Okay, rant over. 😉
Homebrew Husband says
I love themed gift giving restraints. We adopted a four-part “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” approach last year and I really like it…I can get away with requesting three books and a sweater if I spin them right. Interesting that this aligns with the Wise Men (I confess ignorance to their individual underlying symbolisms)…now is there a way you could add an honorary Wise-Man of Fashion?
Keeping things restrained brings back some of the fun of shopping, having to really think about the gifts you give and what will mean the most and be enjoyed the most, rather than just gluttonfesting and ending up with a lot of cardboard, plastic, and wrapping paper on the floor and everyone sitting around shell-shocked wondering what thing to plug in first.
I’m a Neo-Luddite as well, so my kids get old-school presents. Molding clay, craypas, books, homemade toys. I follow the Prudent Homemaker – she makes all of her childrens’ gifts out of necessity, but I appreciate her wisdom and care. My favorite gift for one of her sons last year was a bow and arrow set – the arrows had wine corks instead of points!
This year, my husband got me the ROMANTIC gift of a pizza stone. I’ve been kvetching about my lack of one for years, and I finally got one. I got another enameled cast iron pot as well – Ol’ Green bit it this last canning seasons. Practical, yes. needed? Yes. Not romantic, sure…he got a blow off tube for his brewing. 😀
Hey…it’s stuff we needed! I prefer to spend my extra money giving this holiday season, sponsoring dinners for those who have no where to go for the holidays, couponing to provide food for those who can’t buy any. THAT is the real reason for the season, and I know the Jesus I believe in (because some peoples’ Jesus allows them to be selfish assholes…) wanted to give to the least of us.
Okay…and I also go mental buying perfume come Valentines’ day. 😉 Gotta get my Bulgari fix, once a year.
pensive pumpkin says
“A want, a need, and something to read” is my new favorite Christmas thing and if I wasn’t finished already I’d implement it this year. In fact, I may box them up that way and just put two gifts in one box if necessary. Thanks.
I love the original post, every word. And this is why I always read the comments section. So excited right now! Thank you!!!
Colleen Friesen says
What a great post, not to mention the comments rock!
This is my favourite…
“something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read”
What a great idea. I’m adopting this one. Thanks!
One of my friends totally made fun of me for it!! She just looked at me, and was like, “WHERE did you get that idea….oh…that’s right. You’re a librarian.”
Rachel Hoff says
The Christmas Season (not the day itself) combines some of the things I hate most. Crowds and shopping. For the last few years we’ve only done homemade gifts or shopped online. I’m pretty sure we’ll be sticking with that permanently unless people decide to become sane once again. I used to work retail and this time of year always sucked. I don’t mind being busy at work, but it was how rude people were. I can do without that.
Darlene Banta says
I have to say that I 95% agree with you. On most Black Fridays I look to shop local in my downtown just because I enjoy seeing all the stores decorated and splurging on a coffee from a coffee shop (and they open at a reasonable hour of 10am!). Fort Collins has Plaid Friday to support local businesses which I think is a great idea.
I know someone who works at Target and her window for celebrating with us is about 6 hours; she has to work until 6am on Thanksgiving and then go back to work at 9pm on Thanksgiving to prepare. It’s definitely not fair to the employees.
I must admit that I ventured out at 2am one year for Black Friday. It was right after I bought my house and I needed a washer and dryer. The 70% discounted front loading energy efficient washer and dryer was too much for me to resist. I see some value if you need some kind of new appliance it might be worth waiting in line for a few hours. What was nice is that Sears gave out vouchers to those waiting in line before the doors opened so I didn’t have to fear for trampling, running, etc. because I knew I was going to get my washer and dryer. Also we ate an early Thanksgiving meal around 1pm so getting in line at that hour didn’t affect our festivities.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving :o)
My friend and I go out at midnight every year. We are fun, social people and meet folks and talk and laugh and have fun while waiting in lines. We’re getting stuff for people for Christmas anyways, and that way we save a few bucks and have fun doing it. If it works for others, why lay on the guilt trips and try to change them? You do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we can live happily ever after
I think it’s more about respecting the people who have to show up after their Thanksgiving dinners to serve you, not about guilting you! I’d worry that low-wage workers are being compelled to work on Thursday evening, cutting into Thanksgiving (and potentially eliminating it, if they need to travel at all to see family!)- and I’d hate to be in that position. The point, to me, seems to be that deals and fun can be made available whenever the stores choose, that they will choose those times based on your actions, and that if we encourage them to choose a time that respects their workers’ right to have a day off once a year, everyone can get what they need/want.
Karen: That would be nice … if we pretend that our actions don’t affect others. But, they do. Think about how your actions affect others before you make a statement like “you do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we can live happily ever after”. Don’t you think that’s a bit naive? Sarah has a good point: that by shopping on Black Friday, we are merely encouraging the stores to not give their employees a nice Thanksgiving, just like yours. Also, you might want to consider shopping locally this year, and affect local people and your local economy in a very good way with your actions. The big stores that offer Black Friday sales don’t do a whole lot for stimulating the local economy. Just saying.
The key thing (for me) is that holidays of $$ seem to be over-advertised and overwhelm the spirit of the holiday preceding. Christmas and Thanksgiving are running over Halloween… where Halloween used to be my favorite. The fluff n fun, the story-telling, the dressing up, the viv n vinegar of playfulness… Nothing to gain but lots of smiles.
Thanksgiving, the holiday of being happy and grateful for family and friends, with good food, and warmth… Yet, the buying and selling point is again pushed in our faces. ;(
If we rebel, say enough is enough? Allow us the fun and fluff and then perhaps the commercialism will wade a wee bit?
Otherwise? I agree, for those who enjoy the energy for Black Friday, the cost savings for us spend-thrift who need to watch their dimes, and the socialism of camaraderie. Isn’t there some way to compromise though?
Sure there is! 6:00 Friday sounds lovely to me. From Wikipedia: “For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 am, but in the late 2000s many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. This was taken to a new extreme in 2011, when several retailers (including Target, Kohls, Macy’s, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time.”
So it’s not like steamrollering the sales into Thanksgiving has some long glorious tradition – it’s only in the past few years that we’ve crept to this, and we can creep right back again if we just decide to.
anna quarles says
I’m with you 100% and actually have been for years. I do not, repeat, do not shop on Black Friday and will not on Grey Thursday or whatever stupid name they decide to call it! I will be with Family on Thursday, and I will be with Family on Friday. I will spend some extra time making those special (at least to me) Christmas gifts that will be under our tree for family and friends. Things that are gifts to use, or gifts to eat that I made with them in mind! I will look in my cachet of gifts that I have purchased like receipe books from the church or local women’s organization, books from local authors and homemade soaps and candles from local people and decide who I am gifting with these precious items. All things that I use also. The last cookbook is never given away and neither is the last book. I’ve used several bars of the soap and the candles are on display as decorative accents and used in emergencies when the power is out! Goodie bags of lotions, shampoos, spa treats etc are made ready. I love to toss in packages of emery boards, nail clippers, combs, pens and notepads to those too. Spice mixes, teas and coffees as well as gourmet crackers and cookies are also on the list. Bags of popcorn and hot cocoa mix are favorites as after Christmas they all curl up in front of the TV on those cold nights as a family and love to munch on treats found in my baskets and bags. I’m all for going back to a simpler format for Chrsitmas and keeping all the time saving and knowledge that we have today!
I’m doing a similar thing this holiday–spice mixes, jam, granola, and liqueurs (all homemade). The only present we’re buying is some Fair Trade chocolate for my honey’s sister in France.
Oooh, what liqueurs?
Take a look at this series of recipes on Serious Eats: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/diy_vs_buy/
I’m thinking of making some pear brandy and some orange liqueur, but there are all sorts of things here for people who like cocktails. I’ve made liqueurs and it’s easy and fun–like making jam, you can experiment with combining flavors and what you wind up with is usually delicious.
You get to give thoughtful, non-cluttery gifts, get your crafty-ness on, and support your local economy. That’s great.
Mary Hall says
“I say, if you need a personal safety plan to go to the mall, maybe you should stay home and make a turkey sandwich.” Best Line EVER!
Personally, I’ve completed all my Christmas shopping–a present ordered online and sent directly to my (out of state) grandson. Christmas is for kids. All the adults in my family are grown, responsible ADULTS and therefore, don’t fall under the “gimme a present” mentality.
Same here. Our granddaughter lives with us and we buy a few things for her. We buy a gift (nothing elaborate) for her teacher, and we buy a gift for my husbands boss. That’s the entirety of our gift list. I try to be done with the gift-shopping before Thanksgiving. I didn’t quite make it this year, but will NOT be shopping tomorrow or Friday.
Any other spending we do is on groceries (specialty items we wouldn’t otherwise buy), meals out with some of our family members, or fun activities, such as ice skating, concerts, historic interpretations of the holidays, etc.
I’m flying to the US to visit my boyfriend for the long weekend. Every time I visit, it’s a kitchen extravaganza – I fill his freezer with big batches of spaghetti sauce, chili, seafood pasta sauce, lasagna and about a hundred muffins. I gave him the grocery list last weekend, but he didn’t end up going to the store. I fly in Wednesday night, so I was a little irritated that I’d have to go grocery shopping that late at night.
“We’ll go on Thursday,” he says.
“Like hell we will!” I reply.
“But why? The store will be open!”
“Do you feel like going in to work on Thanksgiving?”
“And I’m sure the poor saps who got roped into working on Thanksgiving didn’t want to either. So we’re not going shopping on Thursday!”
We don’t leave the house on Black Friday much. We’ll occasionally hit the store late in the afternoon to pick up a few things for the weekend, but we don’t buy into all the hype and “door-crashing” and insanity. It’s just not worth it.
Believe me, I’m beyond disgusted that stores have started having “Black Friday” sales here in Canada.
Your boyfriend sounds like he eats really well after you visit!
I’ll keep my online “Black Friday”, or “Cyber Monday” shopping thanks – I went to Black Friday sales once with my mom who needed a new TV (her’s had just bit the dust), and I have vowed to never do it again….
I’m willing to pay a bit more or have to *gasp* wait for it to be delivered so I can avoid the crowds. I just need to remember to not go out to lunch on Friday anywhere near a mall/shopping area.
Great article! Hope more people will see the light. A minor note, the over-18 population seems to actually be somewhere around 235 million – about 76% of the US population.
Thanks! Edit made – I did actually look that up but my math must have gone sideways at some point. 🙂 Sadly, that makes the number of adults who go in for Black Friday type stuff…almost everyone!
I agree its ridiculous, however I know just in some cases (example: Sears) Black Friday is often the difference between a store closing and laying off its 100+ employees, or keeping its doors open for another year. My father has been in management with them for almost 30 years now, and he distains Black Friday with every fiber of his being.. but he will be there to unlock the doors, because thats what keeps a roof over their head. His choice lies with the consumer, and the consumer isnt changing any time soon. Me? I’ll be in bed. Turkey coma.
Matt Jarvis says
Erica- In regards to your original post – Amen sister….
I learned years ago that the only way I can mentally (and perhaps even physically at times) survive the holidays is to just relax, take extra time to get anywhere, give people lots of extra space on the road because they-are-an-asshole-that-just-HAS-to-get-some-place-to-BUY-that-thing-for-somebody-that-prolly-doesn’t-need-any-more-crap-anyways….
Breath, Matt…. Breath….
Basically I just try and stay out of everybody’s way… spend a couple nights a week out with friends for some holiday cheer… maybe pick up a gift or two of something I know a friend needs or can use…
To some it may sound tacky, but I think a $10 bag of layer feed is a most appropriate gift…. 😉
That is what I’m talking about Matt! I would love if someone gifted me with feed for my animals.
No ma’am. I do not do Black Friday. At all. I might run to the grocery store if need be but we have enough of those that are not near malls so I can take the “back way” and not go near the nuttiness. The whole concept of Black Friday is just nauseating. Disgusting. It’s just so bereft of anything remotely related to humanity, kindness, Peace on Earth, brotherhood. You know, all the good stuff that’s supposed to the what this season is all about. And it’s a mentality that’s killing the planet.
You may enjoy this piece I found through The Billfold about the Williams Sonoma catalog, including pumpkin shaped tureens.
I enjoy going to my local fabric store for “black Friday”. There are people wandering around mumbling about “making presents this year”. Many of these people have never sewn or handcrafted anything. I like to offer suggestions and (hopefully) helpful advice. I have to admit that this year I may lay in a supply of sewing scissors while they are %60 off. Where DO those scissors go???? I also usually take my Mom out to breakfast. I am home before my kids and husband miss me. I did the black Friday at walmart thing, once. I was there to buy a (you guessed it) sewing machine for my young daughter. It was a mob! Not safe. A lady had a huge seizure and no one would help her. In fact, someone stole her purse!! Awful. Never again. Fabric store I tell you.
I like to hit the fabric stores on Black Friday as well. I can stock up on stuff for a whole year of gift giving. Not to mention I sell homemade gifts at bazaars so the huge discount actually helps my family in savings and income.
I believe Fabric Stores are always exempt, as I discuss in my rant about coupons.
We were one of those families who did Christmas Big! You could almost see our house from space with all the lights we put on it, there was a massive pile of presents under the tree and there was something for everyone, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, teachers, pets and a few unmarked for the unexpected visitor. But as the kids got bigger I found they seemed to enjoy getting toys, but lost interest in the immediately, they couldn’t keep their rooms clean because they had too much. I thought I’d be depriving them if they didn’t get everything they saw on TV. One year we had a massive purging, I pulled every toy out of the rooms and had them choose which ones they wanted to keep, I was shocked at how little they took from the pile. Mostly legos and a few action figures, I was left with thousands of dollars of toys they were more than willing to never see again. That was the start of a massive change in our celebrating, we started to focus on the real meaning of the holiday. My kids are over 5 years apart and when I found myself bribing my oldest to lie to my youngest I decided it was time to take Santa out of the mix as well. My biggest problem was how to change my gifting to those outside of my household. I started by cutting the gift list to only immediate family and let everyone know so there was no pressure to find a gift for us, I kept a case of homemade jellies near the tree for the unexpected gifter. I started giving gifts of experience or time to family, tickets to shows or games for the families. This was a saving grace when the recession hit and all of us had less to spend, we now put a lot more effort into spending time together with a lot less emphasis on spending money.
We got on the lower-consumerism bandwagon a bit before the economy tanked and it was really a blessing to already be in that headspace when the economy crashed. I agree about the outside-the-house gifting. That is our biggest challenge too but almost everyone in the immediate family has kind of agreed that a relaxed time is more important than going overboard on stuff.
Black Friday is an accounting related term that got its name because it is such a huge receipts day for stores that it can put them in the black for the entire year.
Looks like both explanations are cited. I based my info on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)
Yes- black friday was named by the actual retailers…. the day their books for the year went from being in the red (loss) to being in the black (profit).
For consumers… maybe it should be red friday- as now your spending will put you in the red column!
i loved this post. my disdain for the holiday season is great. i love family friends and community but commercialism has ruined these relationships for so many.
i will visit my local yarn or fabric stores if i happen to venture out and sip t with my friends
I would love to offer a different perspective. I used to feel similarly to you (albeit with a touch less condescension). But that was when I had the luxury of occupying a higher income bracket than I do right now. There is a very good reason why the number of Black Friday shoppers has grown exponentially in the last five years, that goes far beyond the idea that Black Friday shoppers think it is “freaking awesome,” and are all glutinous over-consumers. Though some families have been financially unaffected by our crumbling economy, many more Americans have been hit hard. Clearly, many die-hard shoppers really enjoy the rush of identifying deals, and shopping early. However, there are thousands of other people who suck up the sleep deprivation, and brave the cold on Thanksgiving evening, not because it’s fun, but because getting 20 or 30% off a gift or household necessity makes a huge difference in their financial budget for the winter.
Your reasoning that if shoppers would refuse to shop early, then soon stores would start opening later is sound, and anyone can see how the push for earlier and earlier shopping and one-upmanship is escalated by businesses competing for the consumer dollar. However, please remember that not everyone is economically privileged enough to be able to take the stand you are espousing. Maybe with this in the back of your mind, you will be able to make some new assumptions about BF shoppers that are more open-hearted and little less insulting.
I appreciate your perspective and thoughtful comment, and you are right: I have a fairly blessed life, even by super-privileged American standards. But I think it is inaccurate to look at Black Friday and Grey Thursday as an outgrowth of an income problem first. It’s the outgrowth of a cultural problem first, and that cultural problem is both A) one of the reasons that so many people are hurting financially now and B) the reason why it’s considered totally acceptable to strong-arm the working poor and lower-income earners into giving up their Thanksgiving in the name of greater sales for Walmart.
While there may be people who take advantage of Black Friday and Grey Thursday to grab a washer or dryer on the cheap, or stock up on socks at a good price, that demographic is absolutely not what is driving the door-busting cycle that has crept into Thanksgiving. As proof, I offer the three items Walmart has “bought deep” on, is expecting huge demand for, and will guarantee inventory for this year: a 16GB iPad 2 for $399, an Emerson flat-screen TV at $148, and a Blu-ray Player at $38. These are the type of consumer goods that are really driving the competitive hype surrounding Black Friday. I have no problem with any of these items per se, but I don’t think it is cold-hearted or insulting to suggest that every single person in the US who is buying these items is in fact economically privileged enough to wait a few hours before rushing off to get them.
In my opinion, what is insulting to the working poor and lower-income people, many of whom work in retail and service industries is to, as a culture, suggest that our rights as consumers to buy whatever we want, whenever we want, with no limitations – ever – trump their right to take this traditional holiday off to spend time with their family. It is that culture that I take to task in this post.
There’s 469 million people over the age of 18 in the US? Uhhhh…The US population is currently pegged at ~311,591,917 as of July.
Which is actually worse, because that means that it’s far more than half of American adults who think the moronic celebration of crowd-mentality consumerism is awesome. Hell, it’s probably close to 95%, if the 226M number is correct. But it probably isn’t…I hope.
Yeah I totally screwed the numbers on that the first time around but they’ve been corrected in the post. 🙂
Both hubby and myself will be working on both Thanksgiving day and on Black Friday.. me from 8am-4pm and him 9am-6pm, so we won’t be doing any shopping either 🙂 I work as a Security Officer, and I have to work any/every holiday that falls on my regular schedule of M-F 8a-4p, and hubby just got a job at Wal-mart. But, we’re ok with it because our children aren’t here yet…
Elizabeth F says
I do not shop the Friday after Thanksgiving as I call it, do not patronize the crazy sales, never have once and at my age can’t imagine starting. I don’t really care for the complaining of the folks that have to work those days, as they ARE WORKING in this slower economy. What are they fussing about?? I had a good older friend who lived in NYC and worked at Macy’s and ALWAYS had to work extra at Christmas and after Thanksgiving. She sometimes altered their family plans but it always worked for them. The business my husband and I are in means working holidays, nights and weekends. Plus we’re on call 24 h a day, 365 days a week unless we have arranged another small practice to cover for us. This year my husband is on call for himself and 2 others. I plan on dinner at 1p and hopefully he will be there but we can adjust.
I have heard now that Saturday is Small Business Day, that would be a good thing to patronize and stay away from the superstores.
I am most emphatically NOT going shopping on Black Friday, and certainly not on Thanksgiving itself! I wish my family could be convinced to stop giving gifts entirely, but no. So we compromise: edible gifts, homemade gifts, homemade edible gifts, small artisan gifts (I really can’t wait for the SF craft fairs this year), used books, kids’ art supplies, and a few charity donations for those who can deal with such a thing. I’ve heard the Saturday Small Business day thing too–definitely a good way to go!
Lindsey @ NW Backyard Veggies says
We are doing the edible, handmade or locally sourced gifts this year, too, and it’s SO much fun! yay!
Before my husband and I walked through a store before thanksgiving and was so disgusted with all of the stuff for chrismas. So when we got married we decided to raise our family without Santa clause for this exact reason. We want our children to grow up being thankfull and know the holidays for their true meanings and appreciate spending time with the family instead of getting an onslaught of stuff.
Dave Gallant (from Gridless) says
I can say that I have YET to participate in the most ridiculous day of the year called Black Friday. Being in Canada, we don’t have the issue of it being so close to Thanksgiving. But it saddens me to see the frenzy that surrounds it. Yet, I understand the marketing psychology behind it; create exclusivity and scarcity matched with incentive so that folks are motivated to buy. Well I’ll be staying home. I don’t really want to “chap my hide” either (not really sure what that would entail..lol)
Lindsey @ NW Backyard Veggies says
Lot’s of responses here. So I’ll chuck mine into the mix.
Here, Here Northwest Edible – you summed it up perfectly!
I hate black friday, which was created by Wall Street executives to make businesses go “into the black” in reference to their bottom line. (As opposed to being in the red.) It is entirely conjured – there is no need there for sales that can’t be gotten later in the day. It’s a race to the bottom with Big Box stores like Wal Mart and Sears leading the way. And before anyone says that “it’s fun” or “it’s harmless” think of this:
As a person who spent 10 years in retail and worked EVERY SINGLE THANKSGIVING, CHRISTMAS EVE and yes, even some CHRISTMASES (to say nothing of the fourth of July’s, Veteran’s Days, etc….) while I worked my way through undergrad and grad school, I don’t shop that day or on any holidays because I think it’s wrong to expect a portion of our work force (ie – the low income portion) to give up their time with their families to fuel a useless quest by ignorant consumers to acquire crap they don’t need. And it is, indeed, crap we don’t need.
We are asking, nay, requiring, low income and working poor people to live a substandard life style, in this one regard, among many, and I think that is plain wrong. It’s not the sales. It’s not the economy. To me, it smacks of classism and I’ll not be a part of that sheep parade.
And BTW – 3/4 of the people who shop on Black Friday are shopping for themselves. Just saying.
Thanks for this article – you ROCK!
Couldn’t agree more… however the expression is “cheek by jowl”, for future reference.
No, no, never, not ever. When I worked in retail, I had to WORK on black Friday, but never as a shopper. I usually just stay home and work on my Christmas gift sewing and knitting!
We buy very few gifts and will NOT be doing Black Friday, Grey Thursday or going to any big box stores. How much stuff do people need?
I will put in a plug for Small Business Saturday (or any day when you are buying from a local small business). The money from these businesses stays in the community.
Christina (My Homespun Home) says
For what it’s worth, to the people suggesting Small Business Saturday as a preferable alternative, it’s officialy sponsered by American Express. Of course you can honor the spirit by shopping locally with cash on-hand, but I still don’t like the idea of a shopping “holiday” created by a credit card company.
… it rhymes with “Fifty Shades of Grey”, hehe, And no, I didn’t read the book or the other 2 books because it is kinda of trash disguised as literature, just like Black Thursday, trash.
I’m so glad I live in the middle of no where; no shops, no supermarkets, no trash thursday, no people killing each other over cheap goods made in China.
Couldn’t have said it much better, myself. The entire black Friday thing is crazy. I’m tired of the whole shopping sales thing. And yet, I know retailers must make money. For many, it is make or break. But Thanksgiving night? Seriously? Blog is eatingwildmontana.blogspot.com.
I enjoy shopping Online more and more, where I can sit and relax, at my leisure, in front of the computer, and really enjoy the experience. When the items start getting delivered, It feels like Christmas opening the boxes, even though the gifts are intended for someone else.
We here find the rampant consumerism frankly disgusting. Black Friday (and disturbingly but sadly predictably Grey Thursday) epitomizes the “I can fill the empty black void inside myself with $h!t made by little kids in Indonesia.” However, I can’t get too angry at the people we see on the evening news trampling each other and macing each other in the face in the spirit of Christmas. Those folks weren’t born with that empty black void sucking away their souls like some black hole. That was very carefully placed there and nurtured by the dynamic duo of clever advertising psychologists and marketing analysts. It’s actually a pretty easy cycle to break. Don’t let your kids watch TV (on a TV or on a computer screen). That protects them from the insidious, psychologically erosive effects of Nickelodeon and Disney (derogatory sarcasm defines nearly all of today’s “kids” shows, and commercials teach kids that grown-up’s are morons who have no right to set limits or say no.) If the TV goes away, and I say this from direct personal experience, so does the anxious need to buy stuff.
So glad I found your blog! It’s now on my list so I can keep up. I love your No Spend idea and it comes at a perfect time for me, as I’ve let my credit card accrue a balance that I’m uncomfortable with having. I know I waste too much money, as I’ve lived on much less just fine, I’ve just gotten sloppy about spending and it’s time to pay the piper! Thanks for the reminder. It’s a big help.
Oh, and I’ve only done the Black Friday thing once in my life, found out I hated it, and now refuse to do it. Spent the day hanging out with my family, eating and knitting. Bliss.
Amen, I so agree. Never been a fan of Black Friday either, really don’t like to shop at any time but no way! On Black Friday. New to your blog but like what I have read so far.
Here! Here! I totally agree with you and do not shop on either day in any brick and mortar store. Online, maybe, but I wouldn’t go out anyway.
Nicole B. says
We switched things up a bit in our home last year. We talked about it and decided that Thanksgiving should be about giving gifts to others as a way of saying, “thanks for being in our lives”, and Christmas should be about the birth of Jesus, like it was originally intended. So, we give our kids, 2 and almost 10, their presents on Thanksgiving. Then on Christmas we celebrate God! We have a stocking for everyone, Jesus has one, too. We put bible verses and gifts in His stocking, too. We make him a dessert, too, to celebrate His birthday. Last year I felt led to make a dark chocolate mousse pie. After Christmas there was some left and I felt led to ask a pregnant neighbor if she had been wanting anything sweet lately. She had been craving chocolate and so the rest of the pie went to her. Giving with love…what it is all about (1 Cor. 13).
So, I have never been into the black friday thing. I have been given gifts from the sales and the items were always poor quality. Like a sewing machine that broke within a year with little use, at that. A dvd player that works when it feels like it. A jewelry armoire that was missing parts…lol….is still missing parts.
We got tired of the greed and the consumerism and wanted to make sure our kids were raised knowing that wanting more is not where it is at…but it is all about being thankful for what you have and trusting God to take care of your needs. I still have times where I get selfish and greedy…don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect. But it feels so much better not participating in the rat race that the rich people have turned Christmas into just so they can make more money off the backs of the poor. We can actually relax and enjoy our holidays….I couldn’t say that most years.
Maid Mirawyn says
A few years ago, I went the whole nine yards, to keep a friend company. Midnight opening at Toys R Us, then three am at Old Navy, and five am at Game Stop. Two am doughnuts and coffee at Krispy Kreme was my favorite part.
I bought a couple things (okay, lots at Old Navy, but it was all on my list), but most of what she wanted was gone, and we were treated horribly at Toys R Us. Bad enough that I’ve never been back. Glad I went once, just to see the mass psychosis firsthand.
Compare last year. We bought our much-needed laptop online on Black Friday, and picked it up Saturday. While we were out on Saturday, we swung by Old Navy (me) and Levi’s Outlet (him), because we both needed new jeans nd that’s when the prices are best. Then we went home and spent time setting up our new laptop and hanging out.
Much more fun.
YES! What a great post; I agree with every sentence! Thanks for sharing!