Friday, November 23 is Black Friday. This is recognized as a day for great deals at major retailers and malls around the United States. Thanksgiving, the day we reflect on how fortunate we are, becomes a memory as many of us head out into the frigid night air to stand in line and fight crowds to get a $200 LCD television or a $150 iPod nano (which is the same non-sale price as purchasing it directly from Apple).
A review of previous Black Fridays makes me wonder what all the excitement is about. In 2008, a Walmart worker was trampled to death at a Long Island, NY store, and two men shot each other to death in California
. Last year, shoppers walked over a man who had the audacity to lay dying in an aisle in Target
, and in Los Angeles, a woman pepper sprayed other shoppers, and there were reports of fights in Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and several other locations
This does not seem to faze the investors or CEO’s; stores are opening earlier than ever this year, drawing underpaid workers away from a family holiday that is sacred to many. In an effort to increase profits for those who least need them, Walmart even sent an internal memo discussing ways to avoid paying out benefits, and expressed concern that “most troubling, the least healthy, least productive Associates…are interested in longer careers with Walmart.”
Still, the allure of excitement and energy around Black Friday shopping can be irresistible. If you find that is the case, please consider shopping at a locally owned business. It is estimated that over 50% of each dollar spent at a local business stays in the local economy. For restaurants, nearly 80% of your dollar remains in the local economy (as compared to 14% and 30% respectively [see here
]). And it is more likely that your local shopkeeper will offer direct benefits to his or her community (see Frog and Toad
And for those who find this consumerism generally disconcerting, there is the Buy Nothing Winter Coat Exchange at the Rhode Island State House. Events like this help our neighbors, help our environment (by not making more stuff and not filling landfills with old stuff), and are representative of what this season is supposed to be about: kindness, thoughtfulness, and caring.
[Reprinted from Ethnographic Dimensions.]