Let’s set this scene. It’s Thursday. It’s about seven at night and you’re sitting down with your family, having personally just consumed your collective weight in turkey. It’s Thanksgiving and some form of sport is on the television (Friends taught me that this is called “football”). Everybody is fighting off sleep, while someone brings up something that’s either controversial or a bodily function. It’s a holiday. It’s wondrous.
Then your phone goes off. It’s an alarm saying that it’s time to get up, to get moving. You force yourself out of your food coma, put on some kind of uniform, and drive to work. It’s Black Friday. There’s already a line outside the store. With a hope and a prayer (and dangerous amounts of coffee) you begin helping other human beings buy various materialistic items at absurd hours of the night.
I will never shop on Black Friday. I don’t care if the entire Anthropolgie fall line is reduced to one dollar. The idea that people had to leave their families to open this store so other people could buy things in the middle of the night is ridiculous. Ladies and gents, I give you the true meaning of Thanksgiving: exploiting the already controversial holiday into a marketable time to force other people to forgo their families so that the human population can go insane for an item that is only discounted so you buy more things in that store. I understand that most of you have traditions that include spending vast amounts of money while grandma holds your place in line. I get that, but I don’t get that. With my mother working retail most of my life, and me now with a few part time jobs under my student-pay-check belt, nothing about this night/day makes sense to me.
Black Friday started out as a “holiday” on the day after Thanksgiving. The stores opened maybe an hour earlier so that people could get some early-bird specials on electronics or other major appliances. Even the term “Black Friday” refers to the idea that the sales skyrocketed, allowing managers to write their daily total in black instead of red (signaling a loss in sales). Now, stores are opening at six AM on Thursday morning; most stores are making this day mandatory – meaning you could get into serious trouble if you request to not work on this “holiday.” Black Friday is not time and a half for most (meaning your hourly rate plus half of that); it’s not considered an actual holiday in retail books. Even though you are working in the middle of the night, it’s as if you were working any other day.
This “holiday” changes people. It turns what once was a normal human being into a robotic microphone for angry, snide comments towards anyone standing in their way. Sometimes it’s in the name of Christmas shopping; sometimes it’s called “family bonding.” The idea that, in some stores, people can die on this day should be throwing signals at people, thus proving our culture’s need to spend every last dollar. The fact that we make an event of this is ridiculous.
Thanksgiving is a night where I will not pack on enough turkey pounds to go into a bird-induced coma, but instead shoot enough coffee into my bloodstream so that the world will start spinning just enough to stay awake on the register for the next four to eight hours. Why? Because somebody wanted to wake up at the crack of 11 PM to buy some sweaters for five dollars cheaper than the entire week prior. The items that you are dying for, they were most likely that price two days ago when there was a lot less people around you and the sun was up and I was awake at a normal time.
However, this opinion on Black Friday is not going to stop people from shopping. It’s not going to stop the family who wants that incredibly discounted xbox-playstation-gaming-machine. It’s very tempting to get an iPhone for less than what it’s advertised for. And who doesn’t want to camp outside BestBuy in a tent with all your relatives? It sounds like a fantastic time. Yet, being on the other side of it – standing in one place and dealing with 80 customers at once, while they are yelling at you for something you probably have no control over, outweighs the awesome prices that one could get. The humanity of Black Friday is like a dim light that someone keeps trying to turn out. It’s there, and people can see it, but it’s easier if we just turn it off.
This Black Friday, if you insist on going out, keep in mind the amount of people who are here. You, the customer, might have been able to finish your dinner, prepare your night, drive your great-aunt home, and go out gallivanting in shopping districts, but these workers did not. We’re doing this to keep our jobs. So, say thank you. Maybe pop a smile. Take time to appreciate the people behind the register. See those bags under our eyes? If they are the size of the ones we’re selling, reassess your attitude.