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Friday, November 28, 2008

TGIBF

So here it is, Black Friday. One day we spend giving thanks for all that God has given us. The next day, we dedicate fully to complaining about how there's entirely too much.

Let's remember something, people. Black Friday isn't a celebration of how greedy we all are. Black Friday is a celebration of how cheap we all are. The crowds camp out all night in the hopes of finding something far more elusive than a giant LCD flat screen or a Wii. Oh, no, the thing we covet more than any good or service is the almighty bargain. The stuff they're selling on Black Friday has been there for quite some time. It's the deal that is available only at 4 am. The stores aren't packed at dawn because people want to revel in how much we have. No! We want to boast about how little we paid! We love getting stuff for as little as possible.

Look, I know it looks bad to see people camped out in front of a Best Buy. Sure it makes us look greedy to see shopping carts overflowing with swelling waves of retail crapola. But nobody would be complaining if this were National Garage Sale day. And you don't think those people will wake up ridiculously early at the hopes of paying next to nothing for something of questionable value? If the day after the first Thanksgiving feast had been followed by a mass flea market bonanza, and that tradition had stuck, we wouldn't find ourselves bemoaning the excesses of American consumption. Heck, if any day is marked by how much we consume, it's Thanksgiving, is it not?

I'm convinced. We shouldn't call it Black Friday. We should call it Frugal Friday. 

The hypocrisy of it all is that as we shake our heads in disgust at the stampeding herds of customers trampling over each other in the hunt for an off-brand digital photo frame, we hope they spend enough to give the economy a boost. We want to cast superior sneers at the shoppers (especially when we're in line behind them), but we're secretly praying for a retail boom and a boost of consumer confidence. It may be greed, it may be frugality--whatever it is, we hope it leads us to solid financial footing.

So don't give in to the temptation to judge society based on one day or even one season of shopping habits. Weren't we just giving thanks a few hours ago as we sat around tables that groaned beneath the seismic weight of homecooked hyperbole? Are we suggesting that God provided the food but Satan brought the blu-ray? Come on. Gratitude for what God has given should last at least as long as the leftover turkey.

6 comments:

  1. Heard on the news of a man being trampled to death at Walmart. The crowd broke the doors down and in the rush, a man was actually killed. In another story, a fight broke out in a Target and two men shot each other. They both died...

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  2. I think that second story you're talking about was the shooting in a Toys 'R' Us between two guys who apparently fighting over something that had nothing to do with toys. Why they would decide to have a shootout in toyland is beyond me.

    The Wal-Mart thing is awful because stores allow it to happen. When you have people camped out for close to 24 hours--it doesn't matter if it's to get into a bathroom, a concert, a sale, or a library--they are simply not going to behave like normal people. Police were called in at 3 AM to resolve conflicts erupting outside the store, but by the time the doors opened, it was only a ragtag bunch of store security workers managing the crowd.

    This is an issue of crowd control more than anything else. If you've ever been in an environment fraught with that much anxiety and packed with that many people, you know that the people in front can see where they're going, but they can't control it. The people in back can't see what's going on . . . and no one individual has to push that hard for the collective effect on the front of the pack to be suffocating and devastating.

    The psychology and physics of this kind of event, where crowds are brewed and bottlenecked to converge at a single point in time and space, needs to be managed by the establishments that set them up. Proper communication, courtesy, and control provided by these establishments can all help ensure that civility reigns.

    But the stores are too cheap to pay for that to be set up by capable people. They hire extra security . . . that just isn't enough.

    Still, I can't judge the event on the basis of any of the involved individuals at the time of the tragedy. Sure, there's a certain amount of imbalance that drives someone to spend their entire Thanksgiving camped out at a Wal-Mart. But at the time of the guy getting trampled, most people involved aren't in control of their actions. And I don't mean they "lost control" . . . they had no control because of simple physics and mass hysteria.

    I know, there are a lot of idiots and jerkwads who make the scene what it is. But by my estimation, the people responsible for the death of that temp employee were nowhere near the action.

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  3. You are right. My husband corrected me this morning! Toys R US - that's even worse!

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  4. Shooting at a Target seems to make a lot more sense.

    "Cob" is a nickname I got when I was a painter . . . I tended to linger in one spot long enough for, you know, cobwebs to form.

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