The American holiday of thanks and gratitude is overshadowed more and more every year with rabid consumerism and voracious materialism. I for one have had enough.
History Of Black Friday
The term “Black Friday”, coined in the 60′s by police in Philadelphia griping about the congested streets, clogged with motorists and pedestrians, marks the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit. Ever since the start of the modern Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season.
The term “Black Friday” got wider exposure around 1975, as shown by two newspaper articles from November 29, 1975, both datelined Philadelphia. The first reference is in an article entitled “Army vs. Navy: A Dimming Splendor”, in The New York Times: “Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it “Black Friday” – that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army–Navy Game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial City as the Christmas list is checked off and the Eastern college football season nears conclusion.” The derivation is also clear in an Associated Press article entitled “Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy”, which ran in Pennsylvania’s Titusville Herald on the same day: ”Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree… “That’s why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today ‘Black Friday,’” a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. “They think in terms of headaches it gives them.” The term’s spread was gradual, however, and in 1985 the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that retailers in Cincinnati and Los Angeles were still unaware of the term.
For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but in the late 2000′s many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00. Taken to a new extreme in 2011 several retailers (including Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Best Buy, and Bealls) opened at midnight for the first time. In 2012, Wal-Mart and several other retailers announced that they would open most of their stores at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day (except in states where opening on Thanksgiving is prohibited due to blue laws, such as Massachusetts where they still opened around midnight), prompting calls for a walkout among some workers.
Psychology of Black Friday
While the sales are often the touted drive for Black Friday shoppers, there is good evidence indicating people feel a “need” to shop that day. When professors from South Carolina’s Winthrop University studied and interviewed multiple Black Friday participants, they found a common thread behind the need for Black Friday. They included the social effect and enjoyment that comes with the experience, Black Friday being an after-Thanksgiving tradition and the aspect of loving the hunt for goods. Shoppers who make a tradition out of Black Friday often speak in its defense saying it is the social aspects and togetherness the enjoy the most. Fair enough, but do we really want to revolve our memories of family and friends with rampant consumerism?
Cost of Black Friday
First of all, it severely over shadows Thanksgiving. The irony of a day revolving around gross consumerism usurping a holiday set aside to remind us of all we have is palpable. It is a harsh and embarrassing reflection of the state of the nation and now with shops opening on Thanksgiving we completely bypass being grateful and seek to stuff our already opulent houses with more and more. If you think I am being hyperbolic, stop. About 80% of the world lives on ten dollars a day. We spent $11.4 billion, the most in history, on Black Friday last year. Opulent doesn’t even begin to cover how good the majority of Americans have it.
As stores open earlier and earlier realize someone must run the register, stock the shelves, provide security, manage the operations, etc. Often those who make the least in our society are the ones who are losing out the most. We need empathy for those who work behind the scenes on Black Friday and allow them to have a holiday as well.
Known as a particularly violent shopping event there have been four deaths and sixty-five injuries to date. Let me say that again. Know as a particularly violent shopping event. Let that sink in… How is it with so much and very little real need we clamber over and crush aside our contemporaries for sales? It’s not even as if Wal-Mart and Macy’s won’t restock their shelves and Samsung and Apple will stop production. We disregard the rights and well-being of our fellows for sales. The idiocy and barberism revolving around Black Friday should cause any sane person to vehemently repudiate everything to do with the event
I can feel many of you nodding in agreement but thinking, “The deals are simply to good to pass up.” Let’s put that myth to rest. With the exception of electronics many items can be purchased throughout the year at similar prices from the same stores. It may take a little more work to be aware of these sales, but not perpetuating Black Friday is surely worth it.
Shop online. This is generally thought to be better for the environment, not to mention you can get exactly what you want rather than settling for what the store has in stock.
Buy from second-hand, estate/garage sales, and resale shops. Again, the environmental benefits alone make this a desirable practice. Your gifts may gain a tinge of originality and if the hunt is what you enjoy about shopping I promise “thrifting” will become your catnip.
Shopping online and “used” not only can save money and add originality, often it keeps the money in the U.S. Purchasing items from department stores guarantees a portion of that money goes overseas. In the current economic climate, every little bit counts.
Boycott Black Friday
Let us support already underpaid retail workers, reduce negative consumerism, and reclaim Thanksgiving. Let’s spend the holiday truly being grateful for all we have rather than ramping up for a shopping spree. I strongly urge public protest of shopping on Thursday, and if you must shop Friday, stay away from the stores who robbed the customers and employees alike of their holiday. We are a capitalist society and by definition we, the consumers, have control. Let us exercise that control this season.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.