Dawn of the Black Friday Dead
This past Thanksgiving, there were plenty of things to be thankful for. My family. My friends. A roof over my head and fabulous shoes on my feet. The Falcons being tied for best record in the NFL. Never in my life would I have imagined I’d be thankful for working from 9am until 7pm on Black Friday. But I could lay my head down on my pillow that night peacefully with the knowledge that my place of business, a retail department store, was only open for 2 extra hours on Black Friday. Only open for two more hours. As in, opening at 8am was a blessing.
Surely when our founding fathers sat down to break bread with our Native American compatriots, they didn’t do so with the anticipation of doorbuster savings at their local trading post at 4am. (Okay, so the Pilgrims and Native Americans never really had the amazing camaraderie history books would have us believe. Work with me here. I’m painting a picture.) Pilgrim mothers in their bonnets didn’t sit up combing through the November 25th issue of “Ye Olde Plymouth Rock Daily News” for the greatest coupons on corn and wheat and take each other out with a well-cloaked elbow for the latest upgrades in stocks and pillory for their kids. Think about it! The Native Americans could have made a fortune off of the exploitation and built skyscraper tepees all over Massachusetts with the proceeds, but alas, Salem was alive and well for the witch trials years later and the natives were relegated to Tennessee. But that’s another chapter altogether.
Thanksgiving has, in essence, become Black Friday Eve. Some families are even partaking of their family meal a day early just to rest up for the marathon that is the Friday after Thanksgiving. Sick doesn’t even begin to describe this rabid type of consumer. How important is a Playstation 3 that you would skip a day of food and family to trample other soccer moms for one? At the very least, we’re talking an afternoon of pumpkin pie and football, people! Not everyone has to go out and scoop yams at your local soup kitchen, but pitching a tent outside of Best Buy to get an LCD TV ten dollars cheaper? And I thought the Black-Eyed Peas were the biggest sell-outs in America.
Just think of the name: Black Friday. Kind of like the Black Plague. Black Death. Only in the retail world would “being in the black” be considered a positive thing – although I do like a little black dress as much as the next single gal. I have ventured out on Black Friday once in my entire life. Have you watched “The Walking Dead” this season? There is a scene in downtown Atlanta where the sheriff is spotted by herds of zombies and hides out in a military tank; the following aerial shot slowly zooms out to reveal thousands and thousands of zombies descending upon the tank in waves, like piranhas on a carcass. This, my friends, is Black Friday. Tons of zombies running their hands down the glass front doors of a department store at 7am, attacking the security guard to get inside for the new comforter sets. True story, except the zombies had bleached hair and yoga suits instead of the tattered clothes and moved much more quickly. Same glazed expressions and primal instincts, however, and by the end of the day, the tattered clothes were there as well.
2010 was an even worse Black Friday than the norm. “Monster-in-Law” being featured instead of “The Wizard of Oz” was traumatic enough. I wept a little. Nothing compared, though, to the fact that Thanksgiving was completely skipped. Failed to exist. Stores remained open. And boasted about it. BOASTED. Old Navy, Sears, and Toys ‘R’ Us aired commercials all November long parading the fact across every media outlet they could that their employees were being forced to work on a national holiday. The Kohl’s ad highlighted a soccer mom poised at a podium crowing about having the right to shop at 4am. They assume this is something we women have fantasized about since kindergarten, like scoring the biggest mat during naptime and dating the cute boy from Nickelodeon’s “15” who grew up to be Ryan Reynolds. Macy’s decided having Martha Stewart wake up a sleeping couple at 3am with a live rooster was a good idea, which, in my household, would have earned Ms. “It’s a Good Thing” an alarm clock embedded in her left ear. And Best Buy – who, by opening at 4am, was relatively lenient on its staff – took the grand prize, airing an ad featuring an extra-perky actor/employee who shrilly announced how much she loves Black Friday because the sales are incredible and the customers get so excited. I threw said alarm clock at her as well, but they sadly do not go into the television and inflict damage as I had assumed after watching various male relatives watch televised sporting events and chuck remote controls at the Magnavox.
Why would you boast that you care so little about your employees that you open on Thanksgiving Day and deprive them from time with their families and friends? That you skip out on dinner and go to bed at five so you can join the stampede at Sears for a washer that will be the same price tomorrow? While I do tend to volunteer on Thanksgiving, hell, I’d rather sit around and watch the dreaded “Monster-in-Law” than take a cattle prod and electrocute my former cubicle buddy over the last pair of Vince Camutos. I don’t care how fabulous they are; silver wedges won’t do my feet any justice when I’m lying mangled with an eye twitch in the ER like a stand-in on a Romero set.
And we wonder why other countries think we’re materialistic. We get offended as a country when they call us infidels and pagans, yet more of us go to the mall than church over the holidays. We get ill when they say we’re shallow, but look at our news outlets over the weekend. Yahoo featured articles on the best Black Friday deals. MSNBC showed stampedes at the entrance of the Mall of America. The rest of the world sees us celebrate one of our once-treasured national holidays by killing each other at JC Penney. People literally have died for these bargains. LOST THEIR LIVES over a Bratz doll. I think, 15 years from now, your daughter will remember the family sitting down and playing a game of Sorry more than the doll that wound up relegated to the corner of her playroom. And would much rather have you around with all of your limbs – and sanity – intact.
So on the dreaded Black Friday, I ventured into work braving what would hopefully be my last Black Friday in retail, and certainly the last time I’d voluntarily wander anywhere near the flickering pit of Hades that would be our local mall on any future day after Thanksgiving. Please – take a moment, next Thanksgiving, to really ponder what matters. They will make more televisions. More video games, more Uggs, more Silly Bandz (God help us.) They won’t make another one of your mothers. Fathers. Sons or daughters. Brothers or sisters. Give that a thought before you skip out on the family meal to get some sleep for your 3am wake-up call. Before you force your employees to report to work on Thanksgiving Day because your competitor doesn’t open until midnight. I, on the other, will take a moment to be thankful that, for once, my employer put its employees’ needs over its bottom line and we were able to spend a holiday with our families. And I could laugh at the zombies in pajamas and Crocs showing up at our doors, frothing at the mouth, before we even opened because they woke up for nothing. My department wasn’t having a sale. Such is the Greed God’s revenge on the Thanksgiving zombies.