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