Jessie Raymond: Time to end the war on Black Friday
What is this country coming to?
According to the news, Black Friday, that day-after-Thanksgiving retail frenzy we have all come to love and fear, is getting scaled back.
This year, some retailers are encouraging people to max out their credit cards over the entire month leading up to Christmas, rather than just on one heady, potentially life-threatening day.
We can’t let this happen.
Over the past decade or two, Black Friday has grown into a shining star of American consumerism. It glorifies everything the season stands for — hysteria over deeply discounted merchandise highlighted by the titillating risk of physical harm, and the sound of jingle bells, mostly — and concentrates them into just a few hours.
Now some major retailers are deciding that it’s no longer practical to sell merchandise at 98 percent off, even for one day, in spite of consumer demand. Apparently the resulting Black Friday chaos (or “holiday cheer,” depending on how you see it) isn’t worth the lack of profit.
I just don’t get capitalism.
Anyway, it doesn’t affect me directly, as I’m not a Black Friday shopper. But I’ll miss the thrill of knowing when I get up to pee at 4 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving, that I can crawl back into a warm bed while tens of thousands of people around the country are huddled in the cold outside superstores, waiting for the opportunity to trample each other when the doors open.
In recent years, retailers have found the Black Friday rush so successful that some have started opening on Thanksgiving Day itself. They reckoned — correctly — that plenty of people would prefer scrumming for video consoles in a crowded electronics department than sitting around the dinner table with distant relatives who start conversations with “How ’bout that Muslim president of ours?”
But it was too good to last.
Some killjoys started going on about the true meaning of the holidays and how staying open on Thanksgiving isn’t compatible with a holiday when people are meant to be spending time with loved ones (even the ones they can’t stand), much less fair to employees who have to work.
This year, out of the blue, several major companies decided not only to stay closed on Thanksgiving, but also to downplay the Black Friday deals.
It’s an outrage.
Outdoor sporting gear retailer REI is going so far as to close altogether on Black Friday, and, even worse, to pay its employees for the time off, encouraging them to go outside instead.
That is wrong on many levels, not the least of which is that no one should have to experience weather at this forbidding time of year. These poor drones, who were looking forward to standing behind a busy register in a climate-controlled mall for 10 to 12 hours, now feel obligated to go recreate in nature until their toes go numb.
It just isn’t right.
If Black Friday ceases to be the defining feature of unhinged Christmas sentiment in the U.S., how can I feel superior about not engaging in it?
To be honest, my disdain for Black Friday is less that I feel superior and more that I hate both crowds and shopping. The only thing I might enjoy less than hitting the mall on Black Friday would be getting buried alive in a crate full of fast-moving spiders, with loud techno music being piped in from above.
Rather than admit that I’m not Black Friday material, I have always preferred to express scorn for those otherwise reasonable people who consider it a fun day to shop. Now that’s over. I used to pride myself on being above the masses. And now the masses are going to be shopping all month, right alongside me. Ugh.
Something must be done.
We must save the madness that is Black Friday, to honor all those who are willing to body slam the elderly and infirm in a dash for the last $75 60-inch plasma TV in stock, as well as to satisfy those of us who stay home but hope to catch news footage of a pre-dawn door-buster melee in a Best Buy parking lot.
Write to your major retailers today and demand that they preserve Black Friday in all its shameless glory. Anything less is un-American.