With Black Friday sales beginning as early as 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the commercialization of the holiday season has generated controversy, leading to some anti-consumerism campaigns.
The Spirit of Shopping has Dominated the Holiday Season, Despite Some Alternative Campaigns of Consumer Resistance
After a nice Thanksgiving dinner with family and close friends, many cut their festivities short for Black Friday, a day dedicated to shopping before the Christmas season. As another Black Friday has come and gone, it has become increasingly clear that the obsession with Black Friday and Cyber Monday only serves to highlight our materialistic culture.
Despite the media brouhaha of Black Friday sales, the number of Black Friday shoppers and the sales in dollars have been declining for several years, according to a commentary by CNBC. It seems that, as reported by U.S. News Money, the best deals are available only in limited quantities; sometimes only two of each item will be in stock per store. “If you’re not one of the very first shoppers, you’re likely to miss out,” the article continues. With the decrease in effectiveness of these sales, not to mention the actual physical danger posed by pepper-spraying hordes of shoppers wearing rose-tinted glasses, it has been questioned why Black Friday is a tradition worth continuing. In fact, various initiatives to combat over-consumption are becoming popular, including REI’s #OptOutside, a campaign to encourage spending time outdoors instead of shopping, and “Boycott Black Thursday,” a Facebook page with roughly 140,000 likes, and the international protest demonstrated against consumerism, “Buy Nothing Day.” With this criticism and some evidence that sales are decreasing, it would appear the Black Friday is less fashionable than it used to be.
Despite its name, Black Friday often begins on Thursday night for many stores nationwide. According to TIME Money, Macy’s and Target open with door busters at 6 p.m on Thanksgiving night. These sales are intruding on the sanctity of giving thanks, and to force retail workers to work on Thanksgiving night is unfair to them and their families.
While initiatives such as REI’s #OptOutside and “Boycott Black Thursday” demonstrate that there are alternative movements against materialism, it is clear that most people adhering to mainstream expectations will succumb to the societal pressures of consumerism. This is demonstrated through so-called holidays like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Discount prices and intense sales are no excuse for the excessive spending that completely dominates the holiday season.
— AARTHI VENKAT Contributing Writer
Customers Have a Right to Celebrate Black Friday, Even if it Means Waiting in Line on Thanksgiving
This past Thanksgiving night, the nation was once again confronted with a difficult choice: celebrate a romanticized, historically inaccurate holiday or nab a cheap steal at the mall. And people have increasingly been choosing the latter. However, the blame doesn’t lie with the stores offering the deals. They showed us the door, but we are the ones who walked through it.
Over 140 million shoppers stormed the malls on Black Friday 2014, according to CNBC, and there was no indication of a slowdown for this year either. The critics of Black Friday claim it’s killing a quintessential American holiday, but Thanksgiving is alive and well and very much a viable option. Lest we forget, a healthy amount of stores still do not open until Black Friday, such as Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, GameStop, Home Depot, Staples and many more. After REI started an #OptOutside campaign, the massive sales did not prevent hikers from heading outdoors on Friday. If all the ingredients are there for a classic Thanksgiving to happen, yet some people opt to stand in line at 8 p.m., you cannot rest the blame on stores like Walmart for opening its doors at 8 p.m. The choice to celebrate this holiday is very much there; we simply now weigh it against a less sentimental alternative.
Another saving grace of Thanksgiving is a strong trend toward online shopping. The years 2013 and 2014 showed massive increases in online Black Friday traffic, with Amazon sales up 32 percent year-to-year in 2014. It’s much easier to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner and a successful shopping spree if the latter takes place on the living room sofa. Perhaps one day in the future Thanksgiving dinner and shopping can co-exist peacefully together, just like the Pilgrims and Native Americans managed to put aside their differences for one day and share delicious food.
To take away Black Friday is an attack on free will and consumer choice. Those who argue against it have overestimated its importance in the country’s psyche. Consumers may have lost something in favor of capitalism, but people have been making these sacrifices for the better part of two centuries. The lines wrapping around Target on Friday night might have been depressing, but they sure as hell didn’t surprise anyone.
— NIKHIL KANTHI Contributing Writer