Every Thanksgiving, my family is lucky if we’ve even gotten past saying grace (for the only time all year) before the conversation is hijacked by talk of some people’s plans for Black Friday. What time are you waking up? What store are you hitting first? And so on. Judging by the blitz of commercials advertising Black Friday sales I feel confident that we are not alone in this regard.
This is not some screed on preserving the traditional aspects of Thanksgiving. As far as I’m concerned the holiday’s specialness is a myth or a relic or most likely both. For now and likely forever it’s just a random Thursday off from work, where you’re compelled by forces seemingly beyond your control to eat more food than is good from you, watch football, and nap on the couch. It’s a fine observance, but really nothing special.
No, this is a rant about the stunningly effective psychological manipulation that goes on in these ads. The ads show women (their sexism, not mine) game-planning and pumping themselves up for Black Friday the same way the Allied Forces might have strategized over the Normandy invasion. Retail shopping is portrayed as a contest that can be won. The focus is entirely on acquisition, and not just the more benign idea of giving others what they want, or even the still slightly palatable idea of getting what you want. The theme is getting more than anyone else. You “win” the retail game by saving the most money on the goods buy, which of course, actually requires you to buy the most goods.
Well guess what? No one doing the shopping wins on Black Friday. The only people who win are the corporations that have tricked too many people into thinking that we need all this crap. Their everyday prices are so bloated and absurd that the mild discounts they offer one day a year seem like unrivaled beneficence. And not only do we accept the conditions the retail chains have set for us, we’ve started clamoring for more game-like aspects. So now stores like Target are opening at midnight. Gee, I wonder how their worker’s families will feel when their relative has to go to bed halfway through carving the turkey.
I thought we had a shot at corralling this insanity a few years ago, when a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death, but I made the mistake of overestimating people. It’s appalling that some stores still use terms like Doorbuster Sale in the wake of that man’s death in a stampede of well-trained consumer animals.
Don’t let yourself be manipulated into buying things just because retail companies have turned Black Friday into some kind of off-brand holiday. And if you can’t boycott all stores, at least shun Kohl’s. That remix of Rebecca Black’s Friday song is an abomination that must be punished.