I’m not a shopper. I’m a buyer. There is a difference. A shopper is like a fisherman, looking for the best place to cast the net…the shallows…near the rocks…wherever the best yield may be. Buyers are like the big cats in the wilderness. The goal is to catch the unsuspecting zebra or antelope. Once in the sights, it goes straight for it…pounces…then brings it back to the lair. That’s me. If my kids want a videogame, I ask them which one and then go get it. I’m not distracted by the latest gaming system as I walk by. That’s not what I’m there for. Which is why I am not participating in Black Friday.
Oh, Black Friday. A marketing creation from the 1970’s. One of the last vestiges of those days: Goodbye disco, bellbottoms, and Koogle Peanut Butter. Black Friday is the official start of the holiday sales season…but mos
t importantly, for businesses, it is the day to get the money right before the end of the fiscal year. Black Friday is very important in our capitalist system. There are an estimated 97 million shoppers ready to plunk down some exceptionally hard-earned money and they are in the brawl for it all to get a piece.
Now I am not opposed to shopping, getting gifts, or even better, great deals on overpriced products. I just don’t want to end up being tazed while grabbing Lego blocks for my nephew or drop-kicked just for standing next to a Tablet. It’s 2:30 in the morning folks. If I’m going to be fighting it’s because the club is just letting out and everyone is a bit tipsy.I don’t think it is about shopping at all. Consumer’s Reports (not the magazine, just consumers) it is about survival. If you watched the news this morning you were inundated with stories of mayhem and incivility all in the name of getting hands on the latest this or the greatest that. It is kind of ironic that just a couple of hours earlier many of us were being thankful for what we had (if that doesn’t bring a tear to Tiny Tim’s eyes). I guess we didn’t quite articulate that would also be thankful for all of the things we are about to jam into our shopping carts.
I think we have it all wrong. Like the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, normally reasonable folk are herded en masse through slowly opening automatic doors into aisles barely big enough for two shopping carts to pass, to product stacked like the Jenga game. To add to the frenzy, people have stood outside for several hours, in some cases, in 32 degree weather, so they’re trying to shop and defrost at the same time. It is hard to hold the latest Barbie if your fingers don’t wrap around it. Further, the store plays the catch the mouse game by intermittently announcing just above Bing Crosby’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas that there’s a sale item on the other side of the store. You have to run…not because you want the item…you run because the announcer said there was a sale item on the other side of the store.
We’ve got it all wrong people! Don’t you understand? The stores need us. They need our money. They need our lack of civility, our unnecessary sense of desperation, our abandonment of our humanity. While many of us are racing toward the 48” television for $279, the stores are in a race against each other to get your dough. Right now, we’re acting like the person who is playing Blackjack for the first time. He’s trying to beat the person sitting next to him when he should be concentrating on beating the dealer. Walmart is the house. BestBuy is the house. Macy’s is the house. They have set the game and we’re the little roulette ball waiting to fall and bounce around on the wheel.
In 2012, consumers spent approximately 59.1 billion (yes, that’s a capital B). Look around your house at the broken toys, the appliances never used, and the clothes still in the packaging. That’s a lot of money. News media outlets will call it consumer buying power but we need to see it as consumer power. Just like when your partner withholds…well you know what…one starts to respond just a little better. The same can happen to the marketplace. We can demand better wages for workers. We can demand that companies stay in the United States to employ our citizens. We can demand better products for those in low-income areas. We can demand better prices all year long and not just on Black Friday.
Well, Black Friday has come and is about to go. Somebody, somewhere in this great land of ours, is nursing a swollen ankle, is applying a balm to their back where they were trampled, is trying to re-stitch their torn weave. Is Black Friday worth the Black Eye? I don’t know. I’ll ask the broken Say It Ain’t So Barbie that’s underneath the bed.
Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little and crime novella, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim. He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. http://www.bcepressworks.com