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Black Friday

Here in the United States, today is the day after Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day is a holiday where we traditionally gather together with friends and/or family and celebrate the things from the past year that make us thankful.

The day after Thanksgiving Day is not officially a holiday, but many workplaces give people the day off from work, so a lot of us end up with a lovely four day weekend. Some people like to start their shopping for Christmas presents on this day, because retailers generally stay open. I think that is fine.

Over the last few decades, starting with large corporate retailers, the day has become a day to push people to buy. Some of these retailers have decided that this is the day to try to ensure that they will sell enough that they will boost their profits by astronomical amounts. For multiple reasons, the day has come to be called Black Friday.

The idea of Black Friday encompasses more than a nice, convenient day to do a bit of holiday shopping. It now exudes an air of desperation, as in you must shop at Store X on Black Friday to get the best deals, if you don’t, you will miss out. It is this materialistic, desperate attitude that I find disturbing.

I don’t care at all whether you want to keep your business open or close it. You are the owner, do what you like.

I don’t care at all whether you want to go shopping or stay home. It is your day off, relax and enjoy it as you please.

I care very deeply about the excessive desire for stuff and the driving fear of missing out that pervades Black Friday and which can continue to be seen in a minority of people throughout the season. This is evidence of something gone wrong.

News stories each year speak of of fights over this year’s Gotta Have It toy. There are pictures of large numbers of police monitoring the parking lot of WalMart to prevent fights over parking spaces and theft of newly purchased items. There are pervasive stories of people who win by getting the best deals and people who lose by being a few minutes (or hours) too late.

Remember that advertising revenue keeps most news outlets in business, so reporting like this is unsurprising; the beast must be fed, and this symbiotic atmosphere of fear and desperation helps by drawing viewers and readers and raising advertising rates and sales…just as the same attitude of fear and desperation works for the same news outlets and advertisers all year long.

The raw data clearly suggests that savvy shoppers can find good deals at any time of the year and that the United States is not a land of scarcity. There are enough things for all of us; indeed, far more than we need. It also suggests that the true winners on Black Friday are the retailers and news outlets who have partnered to create artificial fears of scarcity and convince the losing fool to part with more of his money than was originally intended.

If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.
Dr. John Bridges’ Defence of the Government of the Church of England, 1587

One Comment

  1. Clive

    There’s a fascinating BBC documentary about the use of psychoanalysis by corporations (and governments) to appeal to peoples’ unconscious desires and fears in order to market to them (or get them to vote for you). It’s very thought-provoking and quite disturbing – see

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