Nov 26, 2011

Black Friday? Bah, humbug!

I guess I led a sheltered childhood.  Living in a rural, remote area in Colorado, we were 80 miles from the nearest mall.  So all the hoopla about "Black Friday" never really made its way onto my family's radar screen.

When we were still newlyweds, I worked as a secretary for a small chain of bed-and-bath stores while Mr. Official finished up his degree.  I remember being surprised and dismayed to hear that I would not enjoy a long holiday weekend with my in-laws, but instead we would have to return to Knoxville on Thanksgiving night so I could be at work bright and early on Friday morning.  My introduction to Black Friday was a shock to my sensibilities, to say the least.  And maybe that's why I feel the way I do about this dark day.

To be blunt, I resent the demands it places on retail employees, even more so now that stores are opening on Thanksgiving day or at midnight.  Those employees are giving up their holiday for you, Black Friday shoppers.

And I question the hype and hysteria retailers have created among the rest of us, although arguably, no one has to buy into this madness.  Shoppers are giving up family time, too - and in exchange for what?  To rush around trying to outwit, out-maneuver, or simply out-push the throng of other avaricious bargain hunters?

It is not our finest hour as mankind.   (Maybe calling it "Black Friday" is appropriate after all.)

If you came away from Black Friday patting yourself on the back for the deals you snagged, even after factoring in the stressful hours you stood in line or jostled for a parking spot, I hope you'll consider how many employees were present in each store you visited and the hours they gave up with family just so you could shop on Thanksgiving or some dreadful hour on Friday.

It is my hope that we can step back and ask ourselves if this frenzy really makes sense, or if there's a saner alternative - like having the stores open at their regular time- or even opening late - on Friday.

*Employees could enjoy the entire Thanksgiving day and evening with their families.
*The sales and deals would be exactly the same.
*The crowd would be exactly the same - if you're a Black Friday shopper, you'll be there when the doors open, whether it's midnight or noon.

As with my feelings toward a Sunday day of rest, I'm not advocating any laws or government interference with private companies - they should be able to open their doors when they choose.

But as consumers, we can vote with our wallets and feet. Let's sustain and reward small businesses with our purchases - and not just on Black Friday.  If enough people refused to patronize the stores during these ungodly hours, they would return to a more sensible opening hour - they are in the business of making money, and they won't do something if it isn't profitable.

As for me, I'll leave the ruthless bargain-hunting, parking space fights and crowded stores to those who are willing to put themselves through the ordeal.  And I extend my sympathies to the retail employees who are forced to participate in order to have their jobs.

Happy (?) shopping,

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