I know I'm not alone in this, and I know being against Black Friday isn't a particularly unique or revolutionary position. I don't think I'm breaking new ground here. But I don't like that we have a day set aside as a culture for near-psychotic level shopping. John Green blogged this morning about his view that Black Friday qualifies as a religious observance:
I would argue that all these people standing in line aren’t really there to save money. (Like, standing in line at Best Buy for four hours to save $20 on a TV is almost never an economically rational decision.)
They’re standing in line to be part of something. And the something is consumer spending, the foundational idea of (and driving force behind) America’s relative economic health. And because we associate economic health so closely with community health, Black Friday is a way of both giving thanks and making an offering.
In the end, I would argue the rituals surrounding Black Friday—combing through emails and advertisements for coupons, waking up before dawn, communing with strangers in large indoor public spaces (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.)—aren’t just similar to religious rituals. I would argue that they are religious rituals, just ones played out in a secular world.
He points out at the end that he doesn't think it's "particularly sad or tragic or anything," so I want to be clear that I'm not trying to frame his position as agreeing with mine.
But I do think he's right that Black Friday isn't so much about saving money as it's about the theater of saving money -- the way the TSA isn't about making air travel safer so much as they're about making air travel seem safer, or the way that McDonalds's salads aren't about eating healthy so much as they're about eating something that feels healthy-ish.
I mean, even if you get loads of amazing deals all day on Black Friday, which I doubt most people do, you probably end up spending more money in the frenzy of it than you would have if you had just bought the stuff you wanted at its regular price -- or at one of the other, perhaps less drastic, sales during the rest of the holiday season.
The thing that pisses me off the most about Black Friday, though, is that it's so broadly culturally recognized that it's impossible to get on with your life as though it's not happening. Every Black Friday that I'm not working retail (and that's a whole 'nother reason to hate it) I feel trapped in my house, because it's not worth going to try and buy something I just need because sometimes I need to buy things, and wading through the absurd lines and crowds to buy, like, a stick of butter. (I have a fruit tart I want to finish making.)
And maybe it's other stuff. I don't know. I feel generally kind of awful today, and maybe it's just that I tend to feel pissy after Thanksgiving, or the emotional energy of the weekend is just overloaded too much, or that it's dark out at 5pm and I hate not having sunlight all winter, or some other combination of things.