Black Friday’s Instigators

I don’t do Black Friday. I’m hideously claustrophobic and large crowds often set off my I’M TRAPPED MUST GET OUT OMG STABBITY reflex, so pretty much from now until Christmas my shopping will be confined to stores in my ‘hood and online.

However, I have relatives who go out at the crack of dawn and take care of their whole list off those sales, who prep all week to line up at 10 p.m. and come home at 3 a.m. having had one hell of a good time. I don’t really have a cat in the Authenticity Olympics here, and I find the endless bitching about Black Friday almost as irritating as the ritual itself.

Every year someone behaves like a rampaging rhinoceros in a store, every year someone is injured or killed, and ever year we fill the airwaves with glib jokes about fat stupid Wal-mart people and Facebook cracks about how our society is doomed because somebody wanted a TV andcommentary about “those people” and how they don’t truly understand the meaning of Christmas like they should.

Here’s the thing. It’s easy to shame the nutjobs who behave badly, like the woman in the video who pepper-sprayed people, or the shoppers who kick or punch or trample, or those who just plain yell and shove like assholes. We can all shake our heads in disgust at people crowding in for $2 waffle irons and talking cartoon character dolls and whatever else; by and large the people in those videos are lower- to middle-class, not very attractive, and theyare actually behaving badly. Obligatory disclaimer: Please do not pepper-spray anyone in a store to get to a cheap toy because that is bad.

A conversation we’re not at all willing to have is who encourages them to show up at the crack of dawn, camp out, crowd around, and go bonkers when the doors open? Who runs the deals that create a frenzy, and who feeds that frenzy? Who knows damn well after how many years of this that if you offer people a break on something for their kids during the worst economy in the history of the world, more than, say, five decorous ladies in car coats gonna show up and take advantage?

We don’t see much discussion of whether Best Buy and Wal-mart and other big-box stores should treat the day after Thanksgiving like something other than tryouts for the Packers’ offensive line. Whether they should be kicking campers out of their parking lots, off their sidewalks, telling them to go home to their families. Whether they should let their own damn employees have a holiday for once, and not knock them awake at midnight to be there for the 2 a.m. rush. What responsibility they bear, for deliberately creating an unsafe situation and then acting very sad and disappointed in society when people show up and act in a less than safe manner.

It’s hard to have that talk, because it turns into one about valuing profits over safety, and that’s class warfare after all. Easier to blame the people buying all the cheap electronics and maybe hurting each other along the way, than the people pricing and selling the stuff in the first place.


x-posted at Firedoglake

14 thoughts on “Black Friday’s Instigators

  1. Oh, my ever-more conservative friend gave me the business when I suggested that maybe the stores could, you know, quit the nonsense. She hollered at me: “what about personal responsibility? No one forces those people to go stand in line and fight for shit.”

  2. OH NO, i don’t do black friday…
    I did do some Cyber Monday shopping. I mean, 40% off at Eddie Baier? C’mon!! I need some flannel PJs delivered!

  3. I don’t go for at least 2 key reasons:
    *I don’t need shit that desperately
    *I’m not going to reward the store’s decision to pre-empt what should have been their Black Friday first-shift employees’ holiday for the sake of “ZOMG-GIMME-GIMME-GIMME!!!!”
    The Stomp-Grandma-Pepper-Spray-Aunt-Tillie Olympics are asinine. I stay AWAY from megamalls/big box stores those days ESPECIALLY. And I try to avoid whenever possible. (having been unemployed for 5 months – I didn’t do much indie shopping either…but tomorrow is my first payday so life’s about to change for the better)

  4. I’m convinced our corporate overlords want to turn this country into the economic and moral equivalent of your average prison yard.

  5. meh. i still can’t afford it. usually can paint a present. will be doing resale. maybe find some stuff at estate sale. i don’t swim with the current, but against it.

  6. Just to get devils-advocate’y here (as opp. to Stabbity – also my new fave word!), I thought Xoverboard offered a pretty good alternative take on this:
    Although your post & his are in opposition to each other, I find myself agreeing with both viewpoints.
    (And yeah I stay the hell home, pretty much till about 12/23 or 24 – nothing like the raw surge of panic at the impending deadline to force some fast decision making! 🙂 )

  7. I remember being that desperately poor and wanting to be able to get my kids what they really wanted for Christmas. I never could because of my work schedule. By now, most people that I know are aware that it is a scam perpetrated on the desperate by the corporate interests.
    The other aspect of it that is rarely talked about is that the black Friday feeding frenzy provides upbeat news coverage every year claiming that the shopping season will be better than expected. That story is repeated all the way through the after Christmas shopping. Thereby encouraging people to shop. In February, when the truth comes out it gets short shrift.

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