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When Black Friday comes. . .

I like shopping or more accurately, I like certain kinds of shopping. I don’t enjoy shopping for myself very much. I’m a touch impatient and I tend to treat shopping for myself the way some guys treat sex. I go in, get it done and get out.  I have a lot more respect, not to mention time, for the more intimate moments than I do in shopping for myself.

I find it almost as frustrating trying to shop for my grandchildren. I love them both dearly and truly enjoy giving them gifts but selecting those gifts can be one royal pain. It’s all battery-driven, electronic, Disney or super hero character after another. It’s so difficult to find actual toys, that I sometimes think I’m in an electronics rather than a toy store.

Still, I accept that toys have changed since my daughter was the same age as my grandchildren and there isn’t much point in whining about it. Life goes on but it does seem at times that you almost need a degree in economics, electrical engineering, physics, computer programming or some combination of the three to umderstand and select the right gift.

And for God’s sake, don’t forget the bloody batteries, a USB cable and power charger which are almost never included.

ShoppingI like grocery shopping though – probably because I like to cook and I also enjoy shopping for, and with, Maggie. I have a much better eye for women’s fashion than I do for men’s as it turns out and I quite enjoy picking stuff out and encouraging her to try it on. If the store has a chair near the fitting room (and many do), I can sit there for an hour while Maggie tries on different stuff.

I sometimes get so enthused that I begin to offer suggestions to other women coming out of the fitting rooms to check themselves in the mirrors. Since the Jian Gomeshi and Bill Cosby uproars though, I’m reconsidering my enthusiastic egalitarianism and becoming a little more subdued. I don’t want to be confused for a stray pervert hanging around the women’s change rooms.

The simple fact is that I’ve been around for more than a few years and even in those years when I wasn’t around, I was usually near by. I’m used to and accept the necessity of shopping and have even embraced online shopping with all of its constant demands for my email address and technical woo hoo requirements; but what I still have difficulty with is the madness that grips so many on Black Friday.

To quote Steely Dan:

 “When Black Friday comes I’m gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it ’til I satisfy my soul
Gonna let the world pass by me
The Archbishop’s gonna sanctify me And if he don’t come across
I’m gonna let it roll”

bf3I used to think Boxing Day sales were unnecessarily outrageous considering that most of us got quite a bit of stuff given to us the day before but Boxing Day Sales have nothing on Black Friday. It’s like the folks who thought fluoride in the water would drive us insane were right and a collective madness seizes a large percentage of the population. Last year, some customers actually pepper sprayed and assaulted each other and at least one person was shot.

Are you kidding me?

Our value systems have been turned upside down by this desperate need to get a deal. It’s as if we find some kind of personal validation in acquiring rather than simply being. Hell, even the protests in Fergusson over the verdict of the Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting got sidetracked by looting which is sort of like Black Friday shopping but without your Visa card.

“Gotta have that TV! It’s on sale – Hey! Look at that – it’s free!”

It’s not the first time we’ve seen a mob do some spontaneous ‘shopping’ during a protest or a riot. We saw the same kind of looting in Vancouver following a Stanley Cup hockey game in 2012. Fans poured into the street, a rampage started then – oh wait, is that a new iPad in the window? – and the looting began. Subsequent arrests by the police revealed that many of those, who engaged in looting were young, affluent white folks which only goes to show that the drive to acquire stuff is not constrained by race or economic circumstance.

But those are merely isolated and random incidents. Black Friday is different. It’s organized and it’s gone international.bf2

I’ve watched Black Friday grow over the past few years from a day of good deals into a frenzied orgy of legal looting. More than a billion dollars was spent by consumers last year in just that one day and the next day, all they had to show for it was a new something or other that they paid a few less dollars to acquire.

It is society at its lowest point. It is a willingness to throw off the thin veneer of civilized behaviour in order to gorge at the sales table.

Black Friday is the ultimate homage to greed every bit as unrestrained as  any demonstrated by the financial services industry prior to the 2008 crash.

bf4The same people who wouldn’t inconvenience themselves by crossing the street to help someone will line up for hours in order to be among the first to get that special door crasher special. They’ll skip Thanksgiving with their families in order to camp out over night in a parking lot just to be among the first through the doors. If you snooze – you lose!  If you fall – you get trampled. The irony, of course, is that they will risk being trampled to get something new, the day after they were giving thanks for what they already had.

black-friday-g-2On Black Friday, retailers and consumers drool like feral dogs over fresh road kill.

It will rude. It will be violent. It will be a metaphorical antonym for civilized – but there will be lots of great deals, at least in the States. Typically, Canadian retailers are better at the hype than they are at the delivery so don’t expect much if you’re living in or visiting Canada. It will be safer here too. We’re not allowed to pepper spray or taser someone who is trying to take that last Frozen Princess doll or the new, high powered, super duper remote control Monster Jam truck.

In the end, Black Friday is aptly named because it is a black day for a civilized people especially when you consider that more North Americans will show up to grab a deal on Black Friday than will show up to vote in an election.

But then, while we may harangue and rant about democracy on social media, the truth is that democracy has become far less important than a great bargain on a new name brand big screen HD television.

And that, my friends, should not only give pause for thought but even concern.

When Black Friday comes, I’m going to dig myself a hole and lay down in it until it’s over ‘cause their ain’t anything on sale worth selling your dignity or your soul to buy.

             

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© 2014 Maggie’s Bear

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Twitter: @maggsbear – Facebook: Maggie’s Bear  – ivmaki@sympatico.ca

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