One feature of life in the USA is that we have a few unofficial holidays invented by the American people, that do not commemorate historical or religious events. Superbowl Sunday is one; Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19) is another. But because of the savage behavior by shoppers at many stores across the country this week, I now declare Black Friday to be the worst of them. Evidently folks have forgotten about the poor Wal-Mart employee who got trampled to death by bargain hunters (see my message from November 29, 2008).
Until a few years ago we didn’t have a name for the day after Thanksgiving. I called it “Cold Turkey Day,” because it’s time to eat the leftovers from the day before. A lot of people had the day off, but it wasn’t a big deal, and they were off because Thanksgiving never falls on a weekend or a Monday, and we didn’t want to go back to work immediately after our national feast. The shopping part of it crept in gradually as after-Thanksgiving specials, popping up in more and more stores, until this replaced the days around Christmas as the busiest shopping time of the year.
However, now the shopping aspect has become overbearing. This year I have gotten a few e-mails for Thanksgiving and a lot for Black Friday. To gain the edge over the competition, several stores opened and began their sales on Thursday. It wasn’t that many years ago when most stores weren’t open on Thanksgiving Day, and you only shopped if you needed an ingredient for the family cooking. Has Black Friday really become more important than Thanksgiving? Is Thanksgiving about to be renamed Grey Thursday, or Black Friday Eve? Here is why I don’t approve of it:
1. In the past I said I like Thanksgiving because we haven’t strayed from the holiday’s original meaning. Sure, the Pilgrims didn’t have football, but I didn’t mind football games on Thanksgiving, because they still allowed the family to get together for fellowship—and if you’re going to lie on a couch after eating, you might as well have a football game on the TV. Black Friday, on the other hand, reduces fellowship by pulling away the employees of participating stores from their families.
2. The crass commercialism is an insult to those of us who can’t afford to buy the trinkets being offered. And because we haven’t yet recovered from the 2008 recession, I know I’m not the only one hurting for cash. If the merchants expect me to participate, one of them ought to offer me a job appropriate to my skills first.
3. Camping out the night before in below-freezing weather to be first in the store of your choice is just stupid. Especially when you consider that other bargains will pop up closer to Christmas, and that Cyber Monday is just around the corner. At least with online shopping you don’t have to leave your home and family.
4. Black Friday specials seem to bring out the worst in people. The article below makes that point, and also how the only Americans benefitting from Black Friday are the merchants, because most of their merchandise is now made in China, not in the USA.
Last Tuesday I got a phone call from the Kentucky Blood Center, telling me that this week would be a good time to donate. So when I left the house today, instead of shopping, I went to the blood bank (which is just a mile from home) and gave a pint. At least I know somebody needy will benefit from that!