It’s terribly ironic that Black Friday, a day characterized by unconstrained greed where people will actually kill for a good deal, immediately follows Thanksgiving (you know, a day in which you give thanks for what you have).
This new-age tradition began in the early 2000s, and the name refers to retailers turning a profit, or being “in the black.” Heralding the beginning of the holiday shopping season, people forego a good night’s rest and the extolled Thanksgiving family time to camp outside of Target in order to grab that plasma screen TV before the onslaught of old ladies with shopping carts runs them over.
It’s too easy to mock those willing to sell their souls for a better price, but it truly belies a bigger problem—in this day and age, we always want more. While one can argue it’s merely the human condition, Black Friday propagates and encapsulates greed, both corporate and consumer. We trash perfectly good iPhones as soon as the new one comes out. Christmas advertisements are aired in autumn to instill the need to spend in buyers—and quite honestly, it’s exhausting. It seems as if the corporate impulse to amass money is unassailable and never-ending, even when the burden falls on its workers. Some companies are moving back the start of Black Friday back to Thanksgiving (in spite of the fact that it isn’t even Friday), forcing employees to come in on a day that they should rightfully have off, in order to be open during the midnight rush.
Black Friday makes a mockery of everything Thanksgiving (and by extension, the holiday season) is supposed to stand for. Yeah, buying a Playstation for a family member—and at a decent price, no less!—is all good and fine. But there’s something unwholesome about sacrificing time with those you care about for material possessions.
And yet there’s hope. Outdoor gear retailer REI has announced that, not only will it be closed on Black Friday, but also that it will be a paid vacation day for all employees. The decision is part of their #OptOutside campaign promoting the idea that customers should spend time outside instead of in a line.
Still desperate for that deal? Hey, there’s always Cyber Monday. Just don’t play the fool who sits in a lawn chair waiting for Best Buy to open its doors in the middle of the night.
~lana heltzel, online editor