A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota Idaho, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Woe

The orgy of gluttonous consumption that is Black Friday is pretty repellant to me.  People standing in line for hours to pay money they don't have for things they don't really need seems wrong on so many levels.  Big box stores opening up on midnight and making their employees (employees they obviously consider expendable cogs in the machine) work on Thanksgiving Day seems cruel.  The all encompassing media advertising blitz for the days leading up to Black Friday just becomes nauseating in its repetition and intensity. 

All this seems like like a microcosm of the many of the woes of our society: the glorification of shopping and spending, the promotion of the idea that buying stuff and spending money will make you happy/loved/appreciated/accomplished, the insatiable yearning for the next disposable electronic gadget, the over-saturation of advertising into every aspect of life, and the indoctrination of younger and younger people into the cult of spending.  It all just seems like such a waste.
Flickr Photo Credit
It wasn't that long ago, just a few years, that I heard happy Black Friday stories.  Groups of friends or family going to a few stores at 5:00 am for some early Christmas shopping, then spending hours over coffee and breakfast at the local diner swapping gossip and catching up.  The talk and the focus was on people and camaraderie and Holiday sweaters, not the sanctification of gladiatorial combat shopping. I don't hear the happy anecdotal Black Friday stories anymore, just tales of people pushing others down, fighting in stores over stuff, and overspending. 

How was Black Friday 2011?  This article titled Violence, pepper spray mars Black Friday shopping should give you a clue.  Is this media sensationalism of a few minor incidents?  Absolutely.  Should we avoid generalizing based on a few isolated incidents?  Probably.  Is it disgusting that a woman pepper sprayed 20 people so she could gain an advantage on buying a Nintendo?  Yup.  Does it say a lot about us that people broke into and looted a store because they were angry it didn't open right at midnight, as advertised?  I think so.  Am I saying that capitalism is wrong and evil?  Nope, not at all.  

I'm not trying to claim that I'm holier than thou or attempting to convert anyone.  I buy stuff.  I go to malls (rarely).  I have a television.  But over the last decade I've tried to give more Christmas presents that I made.  Homemade jam or applesauce, candy from the local chocolate shop, items bought at local craft fairs, tins of homemade cookies and fudge, used books.  Contrary to the messages in advertising, NOT spending money has actually made me happier.  Much happier.
Flickr Photo Credit


Karen said...

Amen! Save big, Buy Nothing. Great saying.

I have never gone Black Friday shopping, gasp, can you imagine? We were in a mall a week or so ago and strolling past all the stuff for sale made me feel so sad for the same reasons you mentioned. It's all just meaningless junk for the most part, headed from the mall to the home to the landfill, and you can't even compost it.

I've been making many of the gifts I give too; having a sewing machine and a stash of stained glass comes in handy. I love handmade gifts myself and cherish them.

What drives people to loot and maim each other in an effort to get another hunk of plastic from overseas is beyond me. I can only imagine the thoughts going through the heads of the people who make the junk we buy. No wonder we have such a bad rep in the rest of the world. We don't look too good in the press.

El Gaucho said...

So true. I don't understand the allure of the full contact shopping experience and probably never will. And I can only imagine what everyone else in the world thinks when they watch the news clips of Americans standing in line for hours so they can shove and claw and buy cheap stuff. It boggles the mind.

Anonymous said...

I really can relate to your essay, John. I abhor shopping generally and have not been in a department store in over a year. I don't shop online either, unless it is for business. I rarely buy anything unless I absolutely have too. I only ever went on one Black Friday excursion, and after waiting in line to pay for a really long time, got told what I wanted to buy was not part of the coupon sale. And of course, that was highly arguable. No wonder there are so many fights in the stores. These sales are a sham.

On making gifts, I did that two years ago, making hand painted Christmas ornaments from sand dollar shells, homemade candles, framed drawings, and stained glass Christmas ornaments. Everyone got to pick a different wrapped gift and all the gifts were something totally different. All the relatives that these special gifts were made for did not appreciate them one bit. They were expecting expensive useless gifts instead. The next year, I sent them all flowers, but should have sent them nothing. These are not my relatives either, they belong to my husband.

I enjoyed your rant and got to rant a little myself.

Sara said...

I agree with you one million percent. I'm hoping to get my vanilla project moving forward tonight, actually!

El Gaucho said...

The homemade vanilla extract? I actually really liked that idea, and even though I don't know anyone who bakes (other than Alycia's Mom), I'm totally making some for myself.