As this was my first Thanksgiving I naively imagined the day after the big meal would be all about sleeping in, and eating leftover turkey sandwiches and /or pumpkin pie while watching made-for-TV holiday movies on CBS.
In fact, the day after Thanksgiving is a distinct consumer holy-day unto itself. ‘Black Friday’ marks the beginning of the ‘Holiday Shopping Season’ and is supposedly the point at which the budgets of the major retailers will lift from the ‘red’ into the ‘black’ with all the profits. My “research” tells me that originally the moniker came from the Philadelphia Police Department in the 1950s and 60s which had to patrol the huge crowds and traffic coming to and from shopping malls alongside football traffic. They hoped the negative connotations of the phrase ‘Black Friday’ might discourage too many people from joining in.
No such luck.
In fact the whole event is so popular that retailers have given up on the midnight or 5am openings, and instead they are now opening a little earlier.
But there is hope. Not everyone is blinded by consumer culture. If you object to shopping on a day meant for family and community gatherings, then you can take this pledge.
A beginners’ guide to Black Friday shopping
From what I observed, participation in Black Friday shopping rests on two essential underlying principles.
Firstly, ensure one is in the mood to jolt oneself out of any sense of peace and goodwill towards others. Secondly, one must erase all memories of the blessings for which one had expressed gratitude over the Thanksgiving meal just hours before.
Then proceed as follows:
1. Thursday shoppers: Finish Thanksgiving dinner early, or skip it altogether.
Friday shoppers: Set alarm clock for 3am.
2. Pack loved one/s in the car and sit in shopping mall traffic queues.
3. Hunt down a parking spot.
4. Line up outside the doors for hours in below freezing temperatures.
5. Jostle with fellow shoppers and fiercely defend place from ‘line cutters’.
6. Elbow one another out of the way in order to get the 50-inch plasma TV for $299 or Xbox thingamy.
Discover that the item desperately wanted is all sold out so search for something else you don’t need, then buy it to make the all the bother worthwhile.
7. Line up for hours to pay for your sale goods. Work your way backwards through steps 6 to 1.
Optional step: In some cases you may choose to push, shove, snatch and grab at people and things in order to secure the consumer goods you desire.
Unfortunately in 2013 many people chose to exercise the last optional step. You can view some of the ugly scenes as collated by the Huffington Post here. Be warned it is not pretty.
Postscript: There are a couple of positives I can see out of this phenomenon.
- ‘Shop local Saturday’ to support small businesses.
- ‘Cyber Monday’ for online sales. Shop from the comfort of your home instead.
- You can actually do all your Christmas shopping in the sales, rather than in Australia where the sales start on Boxing Day.