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Black Friday brainfade. November 27, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are, frankly, sick of reading about the collective madness that apparently takes over everyone’s minds on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. For those who might still be living in blissful ignorance, the day is not called “black” because it’s a day of collective mourning. Instead, it’s America’s biggest shopping day of the year, and is called Black Friday because merchants hope their sales on this day will push their ledgers out of the red (debt) and into the black (profitability) for the year.

Why is this our biggest shopping day, you ask? Because most people (except for the poor souls who work in retail) are off on the day after Thanksgiving, and with Christmas coming up, they apparently feel that this is a great opportunity to get at least some of their Christmas shopping out of the way. And since pretty much every store offers great deals and discounts, people who’ve been waiting to buy, say, a new appliance also take advantage of the deals to upgrade.

Our friend Ben and Silence have nothing against people making money (or spending money) on Black Friday. Despite the time spent pulling them out and recycling them, we’re thrilled to see the bazillion ad circulars in our local paper, since we know that helps the paper get into the black, too. Headlines may trumpet that the Great Recession is over, but we know that hardship and belt-tightening lingers, at the retail as well as the personal level. So we’re wishing every local merchant a prosperous Black Friday.

What we don’t like is the hysteria that often accompanies Black Friday. Surely shopping isn’t a matter of life and death, yet we seem to recall that, not that long ago, people were trampled to death by shoppers pressing into a Wal-Mart (!!!) on Black Friday to take advantage of the sales. Every year, we hear that people line up outside trendy stores the night before—that some people actually forego Thanksgiving altogether to get in line—to get the best deals. Our friend Ben and Silence can think of exactly one thing that would move us to stand in line for a whole, cold night: to see the return of Our Lord on Earth, the Second Coming. But for a show, a meal, or, God forbid, shopping: no, no, no, no way.

We know that denizens of large cities often have other values, surface values that co-opt their lives and priorities. That someone in New York or L.A. or Miami would camp outside their favorite store all night to get early entry and great discounts is, to us, a pathetic commentary but a definite reality in today’s world. But what about the tiny, obscure areas where so many of us live?

It would never have occurred to our friend Ben and Silence Dogood that people would act in this insane, irrational way here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. But there we were, at our local BigLots trying to find frames for some prints we’d bought from one of our favorite local artists as Christmas presents. We selected our two frames and got in line behind a man who, with his young son, was pushing a cart piled with food items through checkout. Silence was nudging me in horror, muttering “Food from BigLots! Eeeewwww!!!” 

Fortunately, her comments went undetected by the man and his young son buying all those bags of junk food on deep discount. I know this because the cashier, the guy, and the two of us started chatting about Black Friday sales. “This is nothing!” the man said, indicating his overflowing cart. “My wife and older son were out at 3 a.m. this morning to catch the sales!”

“Mercy on us!” an appalled Silence burst out, “3 a.m.!!!”

“Yeah, but you know, she got some really good deals,” the guy said.

Maybe so. But at what price? As Silence and I always remind ourselves when we see those advertisements and advertorials, and the e-mails rushing onto our screens, “Big Savings!” really translates into big spending. Of course it’s great to buy something at 70% off or to “Buy one, get one free!” But what really matters is to be sure you need whatever it is to begin with, and that buying it won’t put you into debt. Otherwise, you’re just buying into consumerist madness at your own expense.

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1. Liz - November 27, 2010

This is the second blog I’ve read today mentioning ‘Black Friday’ of which I’ve never heard of before… Thankfully we don’t have it on this side of the pond, although we do instead have pretty much the same crazyness on Boxing Day, unsurprisingly I do not go out shopping within the first week or two of Christmas.

Hi, Liz, and lucky you! We’re firm believers in making a list and shopping all year long. It’s a great way to avoid last-minute money madness!


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