When Black Friday Comes
— Gary Rosen (@garyrosenWSJ) November 23, 2012
I hate this day. My mom was telling me yesterday about being in Wal-Mart on Black Friday a couple of years ago, and watching a shopper react badly to being told that she could not by three of that thing, that there was a limit of one per customer. The customer bit the Wal-Mart manager, who had to go to the hospital for treatment.
I agree with the angry liberal Lorraine Berry:
And so it is that much more dispiriting to see the holiday warped into a kind of mad consumer grab. “Black Friday” (which has now been pushed back to Thursday by itchy retailers) has become a national rallying cry: Spend more, save businesses, make your family happy. Everyone wins! And meanwhile, we ruin a whole class of workers’ Thanksgiving so we can save $10 on a piece of plastic crap, or bring home yet another piece of technology that we think will make our lives easier.
So consider this my stand for family values. Those aren’t really conservative values, you know. Because terrible things happen during these shopping sprees. Out-of-control mobs of frenzied shoppers can stampede into a Wal-Mart, leaving one worker dead and four injured. But each year the pressure to sell, to strap down employees for the full day, to grab hold of the wallets of those frenzied shoppers, becomes more intense.
This year, Target has gotten in on the Black Friday creep. Apparently no one in the management sees the dark irony in prominently posting the company’s goals on the website, which includes ”help[ing] Target team members and their families live healthy, balanced lives.” How does that square with making your workers give up their family holiday to cater to herds of shoppers?
Yes. I said “herd.” Because it is our own greed and shallow quest for things that have made the corporate decisions to stay open on Thanksgiving tenable. While I hold Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Target accountable for their horrendous decisions to encourage Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day, I hold us — the American consumer — responsible for buying into it.
On NPR yesterday, I heard an economic analyst saying that it’s only fair that “brick-and-mortar stores” open for sales on Thanksgiving, because online outlets are open then, and the brick-and-mortar guys have to be able to compete.
You know what? Black Friday, and what Black Friday represents, make shopping in brick-and-mortar stores so incredibly unpleasant and even depressing that we do almost all our Christmas shopping online.
There is something really, really wrong with a culture that compels retail workers to give up their holidays with their family for the sake of commerce. When we were in France last month, it was annoying to have so many stores closed on certain days, or closing at hours inconvenient to my shopping impulses. But I find that more civilized, and wish we had something like that here. Aside from the hardship our shopping extremism imposes on retail workers on holidays, it does something dirty to our own souls. Three days before Thanksgiving, I saw a news report showing Black Friday shoppers camping outside a Best Buy in California. That’s sick. If that’s you, then something is seriously wrong with you.