This Thursday, Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving and all of the wondrousness that goes along with it: feasting, family, and football. It’s the kind of thing that we look forward to all year, because who can go wrong with tryptophan-induced food comas and quality time with the people we love?
The day that follows stands in marked contrast to Thanksgiving’s laid-back relaxation. While Thanksgiving has been seen as the beginning of the holiday shopping season since the 19th century, according to this article from Time Magazine, the term “Black Friday” was coined by Philadelphia newspapers in the 1960s “to describe the rush of crowds at stores.”
These days, Black Friday’s appeal is intimately tied with Americans’ love of bargain shopping and discounts. Advertising plays on this fantasy of consumption, as George Takei’s recent commercial for Old Navy so aptly demonstrates:
Shopping is fun! And delightful! And even better when we can start a midnight to get a head-start, right??? No one wants to miss a deal!
The past few years have revealed that there’s a darker side to our mad quest for ever-cheaper deals and, simply put, stuff. Advertisements for Black Friday present it as yet another shiny delight for shoppers to enjoy, but a closer look reveals the ways in which this invented holiday has come to typify the nasty underbelly of American consumption, one that showcases greed in all its forms.
There are the crazed shoppers, ready to injure, maim, and even kill-by-trampling in order to snag discounted televisions or the latest “it” toy of the holiday season (this list of the most brutal Black Friday injuries and deaths sums up the horrors in all its lurid detail).
And then there’s corporate greed itself. Over the years, big box stores have been opening their doors earlier and earlier. 6 am became 4 am. 4 am became midnight. This year, however, Target, Walmart, Toys R Us and other stores will be opening as early as 9 pm on Thanksgiving night.
“Black Friday creep,” as the media has dubbed it, more or less shatters the Thanksgiving holiday for countless retail employees around the country. As the CNN article linked above discusses, employees have been fighting back with online petitions and, in the case of Walmart workers across the country, coordinated walkouts. According to labor professor John Logan, the Walmart walkout is part of a larger string of protests that began in October
to protest inadequate wages and benefits and the company’s pattern of illegal retaliation for union activity – or, in the words of one WalMart worker, for ‘consistent hours, better pay, and simple respect’ at the workplace.
Black Friday, in other words, has become a veritable sh*tshow, one that not only infringes upon the labor rights that Americans have fought for over the generations, but contradicts the very foundation of the Thanksgiving holiday itself. Not cool, folks.
So what can we do to avoid the Black Friday madness? Here are three alternatives to consider:
Buy Nothing: In the words of Susie Lindau, “boycott the madness!” Stay inside, stash your wallet, eat leftovers, and watch football. Or, if the mood should strike you, spend a few hours volunteering at a local charity, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or other community organization. Thanksgiving and the holiday season are about gratitude and giving, after all.
Buy Handmade: Online retailers like Etsy feature countless products that are either handmade, vintage, or “upcycled”: repurposed vintage items. The plus? Not only are you supporting individual artisans and small businesses, practically everything you’ll find on Etsy is unique and one-of-a-kind.
Buy Local: One of the best things about shopping local? Knowing that your money is directly supporting small business owners and the community, as this video demonstrates perfectly.
The “buy local” trend has steadily been gaining traction, and this year, countless cities across the country will be promoting alternatives to Black Friday. Examples include “Little Boxes” in Portland, OR, “Small Business Saturday” in Phoenix, AZ, “Shopapalooza” in Tampa, FL, or “Plaid Friday,” which originated in Oakland, CA and has spread to cities across the country.
Is “Black Friday creep” going to affect you or your family? How will you choose to spend the holiday weekend?