Televisions 70% off, camping in tents outside of Walmart, fighting over the last box; the imagery of a typical Black Friday is one of absurdity and late-stage capitalism. But it’s ultimately harmless, right?
The grim reality says otherwise, based on this shocking, but unsurprising website tolling the injuries and deaths that have occurred so senselessly due to Black Friday. It’s clear to me that this unnecessary demonstration of avarice and chaos frankly has no place in a civilized world. I urge you not to shop on Black Friday to alleviate dangerous and overwhelming consumer traffic in stores.
Retail, delivery and minimum wage workers have grueling hours, heavy workloads, difficult customers and increased safety risks on a day that grosses millions in profit for corporations. This is unfair, given that many do not or barely earn a living wage. Some workplaces will provide bonuses, extras and meals for employees during the holidays. However, these perks can be negligible and not widespread. This year, there are movements taking place to protest working conditions by organizing action of Black Friday including #MakeAmazonPay and #BlackFridayBlackout to support the workers who are risking their jobs by staying at home.
Many employees are giving up their Thanksgiving holiday to be underpaid and overworked during a day of consumer hysteria. A retail employee said in an interview with Refinery 29, “I wish people knew that telling me 'It sucks you have to work' doesn’t really make it better… If you really cared, you'd stop shopping on Thanksgiving, that way stores could close.”This is one of the times when the power of consumers is apparent, but the odds are stacked against us with the influence of marketing and the vice of greed. One example of progress is stores like Target and Walmart’s recent announcements that they’re permanently staying closed on Thanksgiving.
Another way to show indifference to Black Friday is by participating in its same-day antithetical counterpart, Buy Nothing Day. It was organized to protest rampant consumerism and overconsumption. The message is simple: as consumers, you canstay at home and buy nothing. Community involvement and connecting with nature are recommended alternative activities that can take place outside of the hyper-consumerist frenzy.
The best part about all of this is that if you still want to save money, insiders reassure you that you won’t be missing much by skipping Friday. Not only are sales extended throughout the week and into the holiday season, the discounts are sometimes trivial and commonplace throughout the year anyways. Because of this, there is no excuse not to skip Black Friday and go shopping on an earlier or later date. It’s a win-win situation because you are saving some money, contributing to employee wellbeing and not disrupting organized strikes and boycotts taking place on Friday.
However, I understand some of you may still have good reasons to continue Black Friday shopping to an extent, so here are some tips to improve our consumption choices. Before aimlessly browsing, consider what you really need and make a list. You will be tempted by unnecessary items not on the list. It may feel impossible to pass up other great deals, but you are not saving money if you are spending money on things you don’t need.
Secondly, do not replace things that still work or that you “might” use. For those into clothes, the most sustainable fashion choice is the clothing in your closet right now. If you must purchase something, think about its durability and wearability. Opt for high-quality staples rather than trendy pieces that you won’t wear much.
Third, try buying gifts that actually mean something instead of trendy, useless things that are on sale. Think about what would actually be useful to the recipient or opt for gifts of experiences and homemade items, which are a million times more meaningful. Bonus: it’s usually less expensive too! Lastly, consider shopping small. Small Business Saturday is a great alternative if you are interested in something handmade and unique. WRAL compiled this gift guide with a few local farmer’s market favorites. By shopping small, you are not only supporting local artisans, but you are fostering community wellbeing as well.
Spend time with your family and friends. Support workers. Buy less and be happier.