Black Friday Shop-Shaming

Today’s the day to bundle up. You’re going to need all those layers of clothing to absorb the impact of getting trampled at your local Walmart. Happy Black Friday, everyone!

It’s that time of year again, when you can turn on the news at any given moment and watch hordes of people who’ve been camping outside a store finally get their chance to bum-rush the entrance, then race through aisles to grab the latest marked-down iGadget. Like staring at a car wreck, you can’t look away. Gawking at such scenes in horror and disgust, you think to yourself, What is wrong with these people?

It’s easy, isn’t it? To sneer with repugnance at this show of savagery. These animals scrambling to snatch a 50” flat-screen TV—as you watch the Hunger Games play out on your own 50” flat-screen TV. Thank goodness you’re nothing like these idiots.

But you are. You like electronics and clothes, too.

And you’re not. You have time and money to shop when and where and how you want to shop.

In other words, while you can afford to stay home this weekend, others can’t afford not to. May the odds be ever in your favor.

And so, to everyone who sanctimoniously preaches that people should ditch consumerism for what really matters in life this weekend—you know, dead turkeys, trans fat, elastic waistbands, and family arguments about our Muslim president—get over yourselves. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save more than a few bucks. And while a common complaint is that deep discounts encourage people to buy shit they don’t really need, that’s probably true. But so what? Most of us don’t need all the crap that fills our homes. Some of us just paid more for it.

It’s also unfair for the moral police to ram their values at people looking for some values themselves. Some Black Friday shoppers are poor, single moms; some are wealthy, nerdy techies. Some are scavanging for clothes just to keep themselves warm; some are looking for clothes to make themselves look hot. Some are foraging for gifts for their kids; some are just happy to finally afford an iPad.

No one should shop-shame anyone this holiday weekend. I’m tired of hearing that people should be spending quality time with family. Some people hate their families. Some people spend time throughout the year with their families. Some people have no families. Some people want to buy things for their families.

Nothing smells worse than the air of superiority you’re affecting when you tout your decision to stay home this weekend.

For the record, I hate shopping and am too dainty to brave this weekend’s crowds, but if someone wants to use this time to shop while you use it to get plump, then you each should respect one another’s decisions to pursue what are both equally American pursuits.

Obviously, it’s sad when people start fighting over a Barbie doll or trampling each other to death. But rather than simply point and ridicule, how about thinking about what causes individuals to behave this way? Uncomfortable questions often yield uncomfortable answers. We should all be contemplating this more and degrading others less. As one of my friends recently explained:

In my family, Black Friday was an opportunity to buy necessities (like appliances and clothes) at a discounted price because we couldn’t afford them throughout the year. I think there is a lot of that going on in lower-class America. Now it’s a real shame that poor people can’t buy jackets when they need them, but it’s not like poor people are in a position to fight the power. You save up and buy stuff when you can afford it. (At least, that’s what my grandmother did.) Now that I’m in a different position, I don’t shop on Black Friday. But when I see deals on Thanksgiving, and people are standing on line on a traditional holiday, I sort of understand. And I just thank God (well, you know what I mean) that I can pay full price.

Alas, there’s one group that may not have time to think, shop, or stay home—store employees. Undoubtedly, a good number would prefer to be home working a TV remote than working a crazed crowd. But this can be said every day of the year—that is, we are all coerced to work. How else to afford Jane Seymour’s Open Hearts necklace? However, on holiday weekends, stores should—and some do—use compensation more coercively to pay their workers extra and hire seasonal staff who have applied specifically to work during the holidays.

And one more thing. It’s about time that everyone—

—hold on. Amazon just emailed me a deal.

2 thoughts on “Black Friday Shop-Shaming

  1. I am a poor, single mom – to use your words – and I did shop black Friday, to buy some much needed clothes for my son, one hour of my day, $20 spent. My total Christmas budget will be approximately $150. That includes my son, 1 parent, 1 sibling, 4 nieces and nephews. I do not feel superior to anyone shopping Thursday night or lining up to get in a store Friday morning. People will do as they wish. I do know that the hitting or body slamming of others to get a piece of cheap junk made in China is a sad way to spend any day; Black Friday, Brown Thursday or Purple Saturday. That doesn’t make me feel superior. It makes me feel sad.


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I agree with you that acting out violently for any sort of gift–made in China or elsewhere—is unacceptable. And I do think that when people misbehave this way, they need to be punished somehow. But this sort of violence is not a problem so much as a symptom of what happens when people’s values get screwed up—that goes for the poor and the rich, who can be equally materialistic. Ultimately, I share your feeling: “It makes me feel sad.”


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