Black Friday, a day of mass discount, Christmas shopping and gridlock in many shopping centre car parks as people race to the shops to snap up the best deals. What’s wrong with that?
Chaos broke out last year as people fought for the presents they want. The spirit of Christmas – what’s that? The Telegraph reported on fights breaking out around Greater Manchester as people put their shopping ahead of human decency. The fact that supermarkets were criticized for failing to put security in place should be enough to show that this ugly tradition has gone too far.
I recently read Stuffocation by James Wallman in which he explores, among other phenomena, mass consumerism. The problem with this approach to life is that, no matter how much you buy, unless it’s the most recent model, it’s not good enough. In a time when possessions were sparse, they were highly valued. And yes, it is nice that more and more people are able to buy the presents and possessions they desire. But isn’t that missing the point? I was listening to the radio earlier today when a member of the public was interviewed and said he found it ‘sad how people are so excited to buy stuff’. On reflection, it really is sad how people are judged by what they have, not what they do. It is sad that people are made to feel inferior because they don’t have the latest stuff. It is more sad, depending on your viewpoint, that people who have plenty of stuff find it necessary to buy more stuff simply because it is discounted.
Yes it drives the economy.
Yes it makes people ‘feel good’ – although this is contested by James Wallman in his excellent book!
But is it really worth it?
I’m not totally against Black Friday. I realise that it provides people with the opportunity to buy goods at affordable prices which they may not otherwise be able to afford. I also realise that some people identify what they want, wait for the best deal, then pounce when the price is right.
Martin Lewis is renowned for identifying the best deals in many aspects of life. He has provided a fairly comprehensive guide to Black Friday and what he calls, Cyber Monday. But, perhaps the most telling thing, is that he provides a warning at the top of his guide which reads: Warning! Black Friday weekend can be addictive. Don’t get caught up in the hype or spend what you can’t afford or don’t need. Just because it’s on offer, don’t assume it’s the cheapest, ALWAYS compare prices. And ensure you always shop safely.
As people flock to the shops, or to the online stores, the temptation arises to throw money away without thought as to whether you are actually buying what you want. This is why I think Black Friday is ugly, this is why the young man on the radio finds the tradition ‘sad’.
I love to buy people gifts as much as the next person, but I don’t want to buy it for them just because it’s new, or it’s fashionable. I want whatever gift I buy to have some value, not for it to be replaceable by the next ‘must have’ in a few months time. What is the need to go out and buy the next ‘must have’ when last years must have is doing just fine, thank you very much!
Christmas should be about celebrating with the family, spending time off with people you love and sharing memories. It should not be a stressful time because you are worried about what to buy your family or friends. Where is the value in life? You can’t take your possessions with you when you die and I’d bet good money that your last thought isn’t ‘I wish I’d bought that new generation tablet’ but ‘I wish I’d spent more time with the people I love’.
One blog post from an angry twenty-one-year-old isn’t going to change anything but I hope it makes you think about what you may or may not be about to do tomorrow morning. Black Friday has evolved into an ugly tradition where consumers are enveloped by greed. What is the value in that?
EDIT: I’ve just found this fantastic offer for tomorrow’s Black Friday. It’s based not on mass consumerism but on charity and making a positive difference.
This Friday (27/11/15) we’ve decided that rather than get caught up in the hype of Black Friday, we’d rather help out those who really need it. That’s why for every bag of roasted coffee we sell, we’re going to donate 10% to the children’s charity NSPCC allFriday.
What’s better, the York Coffee Emporium are a small coffee producer. Result.