Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Why I will never, EVER shop on Black Friday
Me: "What's Black Friday?"
Girlfriends: "All the stores open super early the day after Thanksgiving and have great deals!"
Me: "How early is early?"
Girlfriends: "Usually 6am."
Me: "Hell to the no."
Back then, my main reasons for avoiding Black Friday had everything to do with zero desire to wake up any earlier than I had to on a non-school day, and the fact that I was in high school and didn't really have a lot of money to spend in the first place. Sure, sure, I felt sorry for the employees who had to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn the day after a holiday, but it was definitely one of those "eh, gotta love retail" eye-rolling feelings. I figured it was just the kind of thing you had to expect when working at a place like the mall, right along with putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween. However. That was then (late 90's) and this is now. Back then, I thought the whole Black Friday idea was ridiculous, but relatively harmless. That belief has gone by the wayside these past couple of years. According to the news, Black Friday is no longer a "concept" but an actual freaking holiday. Not to mention, the ridiculous shopping hours don't even begin on Friday anymore! I was appalled last year when stores opened at midnight. I'm beyond shocked-and disgusted-that stores are now opening at 8pm on Thursday evening. What in the world happened to that holiday we used to call Thanksgiving? At this rate, I won't be the least bit surprised to see Thanksgiving completely cease to exist in a couple of years (from the retail standpoint, anyway).
In case you've been living under a rock, here are a few examples of what happened to employees and consumers on Black Friday in the past couple of years. This poor Walmart employee was trampled to death in 2008 when people outside actually broke the doors down and flooded into the store. The employees tried to form a human chain to create some sense of order, but the customers actually ran them over. When fellow Walmart employees tried to help the trampled security guard, they were pushed aside or shoved to the ground themselves. When the EMTs came and tried to help this poor man, they too had to fight off pushy shoppers. When the told people they had to leave the store so they could get the employee to a hospital, people actually started yelling "I've been in line since yesterday morning!" A 28-year old, 8-month pregnant woman was injured as well (it's been said that she miscarried, but I can't find any reports to substantiate that claim). And who can forget the famous pepper spray incident at-you guessed it, Walmart!-in Los Angeles last year? Not to mention all the other injuries sustained during Black Friday events. Guess where all of these incidents took place? You get three guesses and the first two don't count.
I really can't wrap my mind around this. Are we so desperately greedy as a nation that we need to forgo a day of thanks and gratefulness with our families and loved ones just so we can be the first ones in line at a Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Toys 'R Us? Are the deals SO fantastic that it's worth it to cause bodily injury to a fellow human being, or risk being injured yourself? Not to mention (and this is a point that really hits home with me) is it really fair to those poor employees who probably won't get to see their families at all over Thanksgiving weekend? Keep in mind, it's not like these people get to sit down and have dinner with their families, maybe sit down and chat for an hour or two or catch a quick nap, and THEN go work at the stores. Oh no. Not only are the stores open until regular hours on Wednesday, but many of these stores are open until mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving day as well. Then they shut down for a few hours, until the madness begins. That doesn't necessarily mean the employees get to go home, though. They have a ton of preparation to do for the Black Friday deals; the clean up from earlier shoppers, the set up, the advertisements, the shifts...they're lucky if they get to see their families at all. Plus, it's back to regular store hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I've seen a couple of commentaries on news stations lately about the fairness of Black Friday towards employees. You know what the prevailing attitude is? "In this economy, those people are LUCKY to have a job! They shouldn't be complaining!" These statements make me stabby, especially as someone who worked retail for many years. Let me tell you, there's nothing worse than having your company treat you like crap and then have them remind you (in a very condescending way, I might add) that you're just oh so lucky to be earning a paycheck. It's even worse to hear comments like these from customers-customers who CHOOSE to give up family time to be the first person to get $100 off a laptop. Also, while we're on the subject, please do not equate the unfair hours of retail employees on Black Friday to police officers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, etc. That's comparing apples and oranges. Emergencies do not cease to exist because the day happens to be a holiday, and I'm fairly certain everyone who works in the jobs mentioned above was aware of this when they chose their career. Not to mention, these workers are generally compensated with extra pay or vacation time for being willing to work on holidays. The Best Buy employee who has been with the company for 15 years? Pretty sure she didn't sign up for this. Those Walmart employees who had to form a human chain to avoid being trampled by customers (which didn't even work)? Yeah, they didn't sign up for this either.
I'm aware that not everyone who shops on Black Friday is a greedy, soulless monster who doesn't give a fig about the people who had to give up their holiday to open the stores. A friend of mine in college told me that her mother, who doesn't make a lot of money, stood in line outside of Sears for 5 hours because she desperately needed new kitchen appliances. She was able to save $2500 on a new fridge and oven. I don't begrudge her the (incredible) savings, but I also think that's a different situation than the parents who beat each other up to get the last Tickle-Me-Freaking-Elmo. I just think as a society, we can do better. We can still get great deals (hello!! Many stores offer online Black Friday deals!) on Christmas presents for our family, without causing violence or forcing employees to forgo a holiday with their loved ones. All I'm saying is that America needs to take a step back, and remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving-not Black Friday-in the first place. If you really want to shop on Black Friday, please consider shopping early in the morning on Friday. You may not get the extra $20 off a video game, but I promise there will still be deals available. Most importantly, please be kind to the employees you come across at the stores. They are most likely exhausted, depressed (from dealing with nasty customers and not being able to spend time with their families), and anxious to get the hell out of there and get home. Remember: you choose to shop on Black Friday. These employees do not choose to work on Black Friday.
I have so, so much to be thankful for. I have the most wonderful family in the world. I have the most wonderful in-laws in the world. I have the best husband a woman could ever dream of, and frankly, after five deployments I'm grateful I still HAVE a husband. I have a beautiful, healthy child, and we were blessed with another pregnancy that is complication-free. I have absolutely amazing friends, we have our health, we're not wealthy but we're financially secure, and we have had opportunities that many people can only dream about. Yes, of course I love to buy Christmas presents for my loved ones, but buying more stuff is really the last thing on my mind on Thanksgiving day. I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my family and have a good meal. For me, this is more than enough. I can go shopping another time.