Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wasted Wednesday: Black Friday Religion

Here is a random fact you should know about me - I hate shopping.  When I say shopping, I specifically mean shopping for clothes, shoes, jewelry, and basically anything that a typical girl should like to shop for.  I would much rather go to a book store or a CD store or...well Best Buy and Staples are pretty fun I'd say. ;)  But let's face it, most girls (and A LOT of guys) love to shop for clothes and the other things I listed.  In fact, our nation seems to pride itself in the clothes people pick out and wear.  Yahoo's top news story the other day was about Kate Middleton's sister who apparently has bad fashion sense!  We have pre-academy award shows where stars are interviewed and the first question the interviewers ask is who they are wearing (not what - who!), and it is usually a dress or suit from a famous designer.  Now when I see these things, I get bored sick.  But Americans generally love that kind of stuff.  The only thing Americans obsess over more than their fashion sense is celebrity fashion sense...or rather, celebrities in general.  Americans obsess over the things celebrities do with their money; whether it be wearing expensive clothing or getting their kid's book deals or renting out a theme park for the day or buying a frozen yogurt; Americans love it all.  Material wealth is what celebrities have and Americans want it!
So naturally when Black Friday rolls around with these so called "amazing deals", people jump on top of it.  They clip coupons and set up tents a week before Black Friday and stand in the freezing cold lines only to get an iPad to waste more of their time with by looking at celebrity news!  People actually get violent at these events!  They want that big screen TV so badly that they are prepared to punch faces and trip the handicap to get what they want.  Black Friday, to the customer, is all about me me me.  Black Friday is not just about the customers though but also about the stores.  Big companies prepare for Black Friday months before the event!  They come up with some good deals and some not so good deals that seem good.  "Let's figure out how to make a deal look enticing when secretly it will be just like the store on any other day," they say.  "How about we mark that big screen LED TV $400 but it is a no name brand and probably won't give people the quality they expect.  And make sure we only have 25 of the name brand TV's in stock because, let's face it, we can't afford to give these things away for free!  And no exceptions.  Remember, it's the holidays.  No time to be generous.  This is the time we will be getting the most cash.  Say, mark down the Barbie dolls and all Barbie products, would ya?  I am a feminist and speak against them but make sure other parents buy them for their kids.  That'll boost our toy sales a lot.  Parents are just suckers for those Barbie products.  How can they not buy the Barbie beach house for little Suzy after she threw her temper tantrum for it?"  The fact that they decrease their prices on one day of the year probably brings them the most bang for their buck.  Black Friday, to the stores and companies, is all about me me me.  See the resemblance?  No matter who is involved on Black Friday, it all comes down to me me me.
Now before I continue, I know that there are small businesses who do not use these tactics to trick people or gain more cash by ripping people off.  I also know that some Black Friday shoppers use this day to be generous and buy Christmas gifts.  However, big corporations and dedicated Black Friday shoppers do not get this excuse.  Let's look at the basics of Black Friday for a second.  Both consumers and companies prepare for this day as if it were a Holy day.  People discuss Black Friday as if it is the event of the century every single year.  People dedicate their weeks to clipping coupons and scrolling through their emails and figuring out what they want that is on sale.  And it is not just the preparation for Black Friday.  It is being a part of it.  People set up tents and stand in huge lines for that one product they so desperately desire as if it will fulfill their hopes and dreams...and well, their life.
John Green recently wrote a blog post about Black Friday and says, "I would argue that all these people standing in line aren’t really there to save money. (Like, standing in line at Best Buy for four hours to save $20 on a TV is almost never an economically rational decision.) They’re standing in line to be part of something. And the something is consumer spending, the foundational idea of (and driving force behind) America’s relative economic health. And because we associate economic health so closely with community health, Black Friday is a way of both giving thanks and making an offering. In the end, I would argue the rituals surrounding Black Friday—combing through emails and advertisements for coupons, waking up before dawn, communing with strangers in large indoor public spaces (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.)—aren’t just similar to religious rituals. I would argue that they are religious rituals, just ones played out in a secular world."
John says it better than my entire Wasted Wednesday post ever could.  But just think about what I am saying and what Green is saying.  Black Friday truly has become a religious holiday.  It is a day people devote their lives to and I would argue that more people devote themselves to Black Friday than Catholics do to Lent at Easter time.  I mean, it's completely ridiculous.  Yet people do it every year as if this is what life is worth living for. 
Let me tell you all something - Black Friday is nothing someone should be fighting to live for.  Black Friday is now a religious tradition in America and it all ties into this ideology Americans hold that material wealth is how one gains happiness. 

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