Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Escaping the Black Friday Hole

It's Tuesday evening and I'm still trying to escape the black hole that I found myself stuck in over the holiday weekend.  I always end up in this veritable prison of ignorance during extended periods of time off.  My routines are thrown askew.  I start adding fifteen minutes or even a half hour to the amount of time I spend sleeping.  I don’t pay much attention to the news.  I feel like days go by and I’ve missed so much—but perhaps that’s the point of time off and holidays and vacations.  Tune out and enjoy quality time with my family.  Right?

But as I was in the midst of my 5-day stupor, I did have one realization that was irritating on a number of levels.  And it involves Black Friday.  It seems that every year businesses are moving up their hours, hoping to prolong the spending sprees that occur on this day.  I caught a brief snippet of the local news on Friday, and a lady was commenting on how she and her daughter began their shopping extravaganza at 4 PM on Thanksgiving.  Really?  Really?!?  Four PM???

Black Friday began as the first day of shopping season for Christmas and Hanukah and Kwanzaa gifts.  The name began in Philadelphia in the 50s or 60s, but it became more popular nationally in the late 70s.  For DECADES stores did not open until 6 AM on this day.  It wasn’t until just a few years ago that stores started moving up their times to earlier hours of the morning.  Last year, for the first time EVER, stores opened at midnight.  And of course this year we had a number of them opening on Thanksgiving Day.  


But even before that, many stores had holiday stuff up weeks or months prior.  Wal-mart, the classy business that it is, had Christmas decorations on its shelves even before Halloween.  If the case is to be made that Black Friday is the first day of holiday shopping, well that’s just silly.  Retailers want your money, and they’ll take it any time of the year.  Why wait until this day to do your shopping?  The sales?  Free shipping?  I can guarantee you that you can find most of the stuff you just bought somewhere else for cheaper any time of the year.  All you have to do is use your noggin and search a little.  And all that other stuff you bought--the HDMI cables for your flat-screen TV, the 10 boxes of Keurig coffee to go with your new coffee maker--all that stuff probably WASN'T on sale, but you had to buy it or else your initial purchase was worthless.  Right?

And as for that lady and her daughter who were out at 4 PM on Thanksgiving, I guess spending time with the rest of the family wasn’t as important to them as trying to find the best deals.  Has our society really fallen to the point where buying gifts (and not-gifts) is more important than spending quality time with loved ones?  I’m not very big on material possessions, and so perhaps that’s where my disdain comes from.  But seriously, I’d rather spend eternity playing board games or tag or watching Kung Fu Panda with my son than spending even a minute in a throng of greedy people fighting over merchandise.

And what’s worse is that we just had a presidential election where one side tried to convince us that our economy is in the toilet.  It’s no wonder that side lost.  If people are willing to sacrifice their time with the family to go out and spend, SPEND, SPEND on pointless baubles and trinkets, I think it’s safe to say that our economy is doing just fine.  I was told of instances where people who (and I have to quote this because it’s from their own mouths) “are living paycheck to paycheck” went out and spent over $1000 on Black Friday on things like flat-screen TVs, tablets, phones, etc.  These same people tried to say that Obama has been running our country into the ground.  They said that he was responsible for gas prices and high unemployment and everything else that is wrong with this country, including their personal financial situations.  And yet they spent over a grand on crap that they don’t need just because some store advertised it as being on sale?  That just makes me want to scream!

Next year I wouldn’t be surprised to find stores opening at noon on Thanksgiving for Black Friday sales.    And before too long, it will be called Black Weekend, considering we already have a Cyber-Monday.  And it’s never going to change.  Unless we have a screen plastered to our faces or a phone or gaming controller glued to our hands, we are bored.  Whatever happened to going for walks?  Reading books?  Engaging the mind in arts and crafts or playing games or just TALKING to others?  No, until we can get off of our butts and enjoy the beauty of the world outside of our little shells that we live in, we will always crave the crap that is on sale on Thanksgiving weekend.

Will it ever change?  No.  But maybe if you are reading this, you might.  Next year, spend your time with your family and loved ones.  No, don’t just spend it.  Cherish it.  Because all that crap you bought this year will be easily replaceable next year if lost or broken.  But your friends and family?  They can never be replaced.

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