Today, if you didn’t already know, is the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday, which for the past 50 years or so has been referred to as Black Friday. It is an orgy of consumerism, a shopping frenzy with supposedly lower prices and longer store hours and chaos in shopping malls across the USA. It is only one day, but I have been sick and tired of it for weeks already.
That’s because it seems like the entire month of November I have been deluged with advertising for Black Friday sales. Newspaper reports say the day has become as popular with Canadian consumers as Boxing Day (December 26 for those who don’t know that one). I don’t how that works for the retailers. Boxing Day gives them a chance to unload leftover stock after Christmas. Black Friday is almost a month before Christmas. What is the incentive to the seller to deeply discount products in advance of the biggest shopping month of the year?
Everyone has jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon. Not only do the retailers I have a relationship with deluge my email inbox, but the newspaper is stuffed with advertising: household appliances, toys, cars, cameras and electronic goods are all on sale. And pretty much everything else you can imagine.
Black Friday is a popular shopping day in the US because many people take it as a holiday. Thanksgiving is always a Thursday, the fourth Thursday in November, so if you have Friday off also then you get a four-day long weekend. And with Christmas less than a month away people use that free day to do a lot of their shopping. Unfortunately it has gone overboard; at least that is how I see it. People get so aggressive in hunting for bargains that they lose all perspective. I expect to read about shootings over mall parking spaces in my newspaper tomorrow.
I understand how consumer spending is good for the economy, that purchasing products creates both retail and manufacturing jobs. But does it make sense to spend the day after a holiday dedicated to giving thanks, to reflecting on how we have been blessed as individuals, as families, as a country, to go out and join in an orgiastic excess of spending? Does he who dies with the most toys really win?
Following Black Friday, at least since 2005, is Cyber Monday, when the shopping orgy moves online and people spend whatever cash they have left. Another artificial event, but marketing works. More to my liking is Giving Tuesday, the day following Cyber Monday. The idea is to do something for others, to donate to charity and put life back in its proper perspective.
I won’t be participating in Black Friday sales. In doing so I am consciously rejecting American cultural assimilation – in Canada Thanksgiving is in October and not on a Thursday. Nor do I expect to buy anything on Cyber Monday, though I suppose if the price is right there are a few Christmas gifts I could pick up.
However I will be taking part in Giving Tuesday. That is an idea I can get behind, though I will admit that my gifts will probably be donations I would have made anyway to causes I already support. If I am going to take part in such a group activity, to join the bandwagon so to speak, it might as well be for a good cause.