I just don’t get Black Friday. I’ve tried to understand but it’s just not happening.
Somehow the wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving, designed for us to spend time with family and friends and simply relax, has been unceremoniously cut short because people have to go stand in line outside big-box retail stores in the middle of the night in the hopes of saving money on their Christmas shopping.
I’m all for good deals, and I have no problem with people trying to get the most bang for their buck in tough economic times, even if it means camping out in a parking lot all night to do so.
My problem is with the retailers themselves.
They have created, promoted and celebrated a dangerous feeding frenzy as some sort of essential component of the American holiday shopping experience.
We are bombarded by television commercials featuring catchy jingles celebrating Black Friday, which include singing women happily stealing items from other people’s shopping carts. Somewhere along the way, these conglomerate stores have turned what is traditionally known as the season of giving and turned it into the season of taking—with no holds barred.
Don’t believe me? Here are just a few incidents of reported violence from Black Friday 2011:
At a Wal-Mart near Little Rock, Ark., a screaming mob of shoppers tussled over $2 waffle makers. The riot was caught on video and went viral. At a Wal-Mart in New York, two women were taken to the hospital for injuries they suffered while trying to get a $35 smartphone deal. One woman was shoved down and kicked in the face, suffering bruises and cuts on her face, arms and hand. She described the scene as a “stampede.”
At a Los Angeles Wal-Mart, a grown woman determined to buy a discounted video game system allegedly pepper-sprayed about 20 people trying to get the same merchandise. According to a police report, the pepper sprayer managed to get her merchandise, pay for it and leave the store. Here’s the video:
A 54-year-old man was left lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood for about 10 minutes at a Wal-Mart in Arizona before being arrested. According to his grandson, he had grabbed a video game and tucked it under his arm to guard it from the swarming masses when police pulled him out of the crowd.
Eyewitnesses said he appeared to be cooperating when an officer suddenly slammed his face first into the floor, knocking him out. The impact was described as “like a bowling ball hitting the ground” by his grandson. Police have charged the man, who is still recovering from incident, with shoplifting and resisting arrest.
Black Friday shoppers were held up at gunpoint in Wal-Mart parking lots from coast to coast. In California, a man and his family were crossing a store parking lot between 1 and 2 a.m. when a group approached and demanded they hand over their purchases. When the family refused, one of the suspects pulled out a gun and shot the man, critically injuring him. A woman was also shot outside a Wal-Mart in an apparent robbery attempt in Myrtle Beach.
Of course, this is nothing compared to the horrific events of 2008, when a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in a rush of thousands of early-morning shoppers as he and other employees attempted to unlock the doors of a Long Island, New York, store at 5 a.m. In an unrelated incident, two men were shot dead in a Toys R Us in Palm Desert, Calif., after they argued in the store.
Those are the kinds of incidents you expect when there are massive food shortages, not because there’s a new Nintendo game coming out.
Here’s an idea. Maybe retailers should take some of the millions and millions they spend on advertising and promoting this whorish feeding frenzy known as Black Friday and use the money to cut prices.
Or if they want to get really crazy, pay their workers a decent wage or give them adequate health insurance. Despite what the annoying lady in the Kohl’s commercial sings about it, the spectacle of Black Friday is American materialistic sensationalism at its very worst—a celebration of greed tinged with a tacit endorsement of lawlessness.
Ironically, many of the people who own, run and profit from these large companies have decried the Occupy Wall Street movement—which features large crowds of people assembling peacefully to protest American corporate welfare and greed.
Maybe they would be more tolerant of the movement if the name were changed from “Occupy Wall Street” to “Occupy Wal-Mart,” complete with nightly unveilings of cheap consumer merchandise for protestors to fight over.
What does it say about our society when peaceful protestors are arrested (whether you agree with their politics or not) but acts of violence are practically encouraged with jingles and snappy commercials?
Kind of makes every day seem like Black Friday, doesn’t it?