The Madness/Genius Of ‘Black Friday’

The Madness/Genius Of ‘Black Friday’
Dane La Born

Dane La Born

Oh, Thanksgiving. That wonderful time of year that marks a time when we are supposed to give thanks for the things we have in life, and while it’s true that there’s usually a bit where families go around the table and say something they’re thankful for, Thanksgiving is better known for something else: the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

We’ve all seen the insanity of Black Friday. People trampled, getting into fights over TVs, giant shuddering masses of people pressing in through the doors of shopping centers; it’s a nightmare for shoppers, and even more of a nightmare for the people that have to work.

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a day when there was absolutely nothing open. Maybe one or two diners would be cooking, but most of their business was people passing through. Thanksgiving was family time, and nothing else. Lately though, it;s becoming less and less a family holiday as consumerism takes it over. Stores that used to be closed now keep their doors open, or open them later in the day, expecting their employees to have whatever Thanksgiving festivities during the afternoon. Gone is Thanksgiving dinner for anyone that has to work retail, I guess.

I’m not bitching about the unfairness of having to work Thanksgiving, anyone that does is compensated for the inconvenience by getting time and a half. That doesn’t stop them being paid the normal minimum to work one of the worst shopping days of the year though, but that’s also okay. What I’m bitching about is our continued decline into being such a consumer-based society that any notion other than buying and selling will seem foreign.

One store being open on Thanksgiving started an inevitable sales competition, and soon every store was offering breakthrough sales if only you’d come that Thursday instead of coming the following Friday. When companies are accused of being the greedy little sharks that they are, they usually release a statement reminding everyone that “Macy’s is ubiquitous with Thanksgiving” and “Walmart respects the modern American family” but nobody will just say “But we want to make money, and this is a really easy way to do it because you guys eat it up!” Is it so much to ask for a little corporate honesty?

That’s the truth, though. The sales that go on during Black Friday, those really good ones that you have to be there at 6 a.m. to take advantage of, and that people get beaten and trampled over? Typically those are the things that they were totally incapable of selling at any other point in the year. As for the “deals” that happen on Black Friday, well, they happen pretty much anytime during the year, you’ve just got to keep your eyes open. There is no “holiday shopping season,” that’s a buzzword some underpaid intern probably made up, because it plants the idea in our heads that there is no other time but now to shop for Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or any of the dozens of holidays celebrated from November 1st until January 1st of the new year.

One company is totally up front about what they do on Black Friday, and that’s the company that sells Cards Against Humanity. They shut their normal webstore down the day after Thanksgiving, so you can’t take advantage of any great sales. What you can do is spend $5 on whatever bit of nothing they are selling that year. This year it was that, literally nothing, and they still made over $71,000. Last year, they sold everyone an actual box of bull shit, and when people received their feces that January, they took to the internet to protest that Cards Against Humanity had actually sent them shit! Even though at every step along the way they were reminded precisely what they were buying.

I’m not an idiot. I know there is no stopping the capitalism train, especially when it’s going as fast as ours is. You can’t deny, though, assuming you’ve been alive for more than 20 years, that things have changed in the last decade especially. It’s not the “post 9/11 climate” or anything like that, it’s not the result of the “lazy, entitled millennial generation,” it’s just the natural result of the market economy. When saying there’s a holiday shopping season and that these sales are like no other is proven to make whatever company more money, they have no reason to want to avoid it, and in fact, they want to extend it for as long as they can. That’s what we’re seeing happening, and soon Thanksgiving won’t be able to masquerade as a family holiday anymore. We’ll have to admit that we really only care about the shopping we can do after dinner and on the following Friday.

Categories: Commentary
Tags: black friday