About 8 years ago, I was convinced to sit outside a Best Buy on Thanksgiving night to wait in line for when the store opened before dawn. We set up a tent along the side of the building and drank beers. Friends popped in and out to have a couple beers before going about their night. We peed in between cars. It was fun. And when the doors finally opened I found a tub of Seinfeld DVDs and called it a day. This is my only Black Friday experience.
Since then, I’ve realized that even showing up to get a few cheap DVDs is contributing to the monster that has taken hold of our country. Thanksgiving has been eclipsed by sales starting earlier and earlier to the point where people look forward to the holiday not because they want to drink booze with their family at noon and watch football, but because they want to hammer out some Christmas shopping and possibly trample a couple people in the process. And I, for one, think that is really fucked up.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a deal. Hell, that’s basically become the American Dream. A TV for two hundred bucks that is so clear you can see the pimples on an actor’s face even though your eyes are closed? And they’re going to throw in a sectional sofa with a leather footrest that has specially formed feet that won’t scuff up the hardwood floors you found after ripping out your carpet because you told yourself it had to be done after the twentieth salsa stain? Who could turn that down?
Well, if you have a soul and about five minutes to consider the possibility that the people working behind the counter at whatever store you charged into would much rather spend their time at home with their friends and/or families, you might re-think your perceived need for such an item.
There’s a plague of inconsideration that makes people forget about this and in turn, convinces the stores to open earlier and earlier to set their own arbitrary goals based on what they were able to accomplish the previous year and projected possibilities for substantial profits. Never mind the fact that they are ignoring a national holiday in order to get you cheap cleaning products (because that’s what really matters, after all).
This year, K-Mart is opening their doors at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and staying open for 42 hours. This would make sense if it was a pharmacy, emergency supply outlet, or a hospital but not a fucking K-Mart. Who needs to find sweaters on clearance at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving? Nobody. Well, maybe fugitives needing to alter their appearance from the picture posted at the Post Office, but they’re closed that day anyways so not even them. So what’s the point? The point is that the stores have marketed “the shopping season” as something akin to religion and whipped people into such a frenzy that they can’t contain themselves. It would be like a restaurant blowing all the exhaust from their deep fryers into a homeless encampment. By the time the grease is hot enough to cook some corn dogs, the people would be so crazy with hunger that they’d crawl into the mouth of a sasquatch in order to get some.
The interesting part is that while there are sure to be some sales that make you say “holy shit” and think about risking a few hours with the animals, there are also a large number of busts. For example, my wonderful girlfriend works for a store that sells a bunch of shit that is pretty cheap every day. I’m talking twenty dollar shirts and shit like that. As she put it to me the other day, “It’s not really worth coming in to get a top for $6 that normally costs $8.” And she’s right. That would barely warrant a trip to the mall on a Saturday when all of your friends are at work/out of town and the internet is down at your house and you ate all of your Cheetos the night before and your downstairs neighbor is have a flatulence competition with the guys from the factory by the river. Barely. But it certainly doesn’t necessitate a trip to the mall on Thanksgiving fucking Day.
But people will go. Definitely. They’ll go and get some shitty deals and the stores will open earlier next year and on and on until the stores stay open from Halloween to New Year’s Day and they build bunks in the back so the employees don’t have to drive home. And we’ll say it’s the best holiday season of all time because that’s what they want us to think. Sure, that sounds like a conspiracy theory but when it comes to commercialism at the end of the year, I’m not going to say anything is impossible. The search for record-breaking profits is what runs this county and if we have to shit directly into the mouths of our workers achieve this, so be it.
Every dollar spent at a Thanksgiving Day sale, or a midnight sale, or an early opening sale is directly contributing to this. It’s a terrible cycle where we get tricked into coming in to these places, they see the demand as a need, and they keep it going. If we step outside of this cycle, the whole thing will grind to a halt. But we won’t do that. There’s no way we can affect mass change because we can’t agree on anything (this applies to more than Black Friday but I’ll just leave that alone for now). People are inherently selfish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as a general ideal. It’s bred into us through years of evolution (if our ancestors weren’t selfish they wouldn’t have procreated and so on) and we just have to accept that as part of human tendency. The only way we can act in a more helpful way is to talk ourselves out of this inherent tendency. But when you are pumping commercials into your head all day through youtube videos or television programs or billboards or flyers or dancing dudes on the corner with big fucking arrows telling you where to spend money, you get tunnel vision towards the cash register. There’s no time for self reflection when you are running full-speed towards a giant red sign that says “50% off!”
The point of this whole rant is this: Shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday fucks over the workers. It sucks to work on those days because people are fucking crazy, everything is a mess, and people are fucking crazy. Instead of half-chewing your turkey and guzzling the gravy from a glass as you find your keys and slip on your shoes, I implore you to take a breath and sit the fuck back down. Unless you find a store that is completely run and operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses (they don’t celebrate holidays so Thanksgiving is just a Thursday to them), keep your credit card in your pocket. You’re only contributing to an apathetic culture of consumerism that is rampant, inexplicably celebrated, and wrong.
There’s no need to feel bad if you’ve participated in these sales in the past. As I said, I’ve been there before, too. But it’s getting out of hand. I know we won’t be able to stop this shit altogether, I’m certainly not suggesting we “occupy” a Wal-Mart or something, but have some respect for yourself and others and sit it out. There will always be more Tickle-Me-Elmos coming off the conveyor belts in the near future.