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Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday


I survived a visit to Wal-Mart today. I wasn't brave enough to line up or even show up at 4 a.m., like hundreds of local shoppers did (including those above). Our DVD player decided to self-destruct around 1:00 today, so I took a trip to consumerland to replace it.

It really wasn't that bad by the time I got there. It was full, but not much more full than most of the other times I go. The cashier I spoke to said that he had been there since before the store opened at 5 a.m. and that he couldn't wait to go home in 20 minutes. (I couldn't blame him.) He told me that it was a madhouse when the doors first opened today. He said that one woman ultimately had to be escorted out of the store after she cut to the head of a line and tried to buy a television. She became argumentative and loud and refused to leave until the police walked her out of the building.

It's a cliche at this point to decry consumerism and Black Friday. I guess I am on the fence somewhere on this one. On the one hand, I think it is sad that people flock to retail stores before dawn and (especially sad) that they often trample each other and get in fights over merchandise. Yes, life is very short, and it shouldn't come down to what items or gadgets we have or don't have.

The reality is that life very often comes down to haves and have nots, even though I agree that it should not. I don't personally want to "keep up with the Joneses" or gorge myself on material purchases, but I also have to acknowledge that I am a consumer, too. As a consumer, I frequently make impulsive and unwise purchases, but I hope I am becoming wiser about my consumption as I grow older. Regardless, something bothers me about the annual practice of forming mobs to purchase as much as they possibly can and also about the recurring habit of covering this activity in the media. Each year, the point seems to be to point out in coverage that people are even more greedy and obsessed than in prior years. Is the fact that lots of people shop compulsively the day after Thanksgiving really news? It reminds me of the tendency of media outlets to routinely cover sweltering heat in July, as if this were unexpected.

I believe that the media generally reflects our interests and attentions as a society, so I can't pass the blame solely to reporters. I think we all either participate in the Black Friday masses or like to hear about it in order to feel superior for not having participated in it. This post, I'm realizing, has been a long attempt to say this: I wish all of us didn't focus on our possessions and our appetites quite so much.

That's all ... feel free to resume shopping, and thanks for stopping by. :)

2 comments:

CHEZ BEZ said...

I wasn't a part of the crazy consumerism today. But I wasn't making a point. I was just busy and broke.

And I typically do my Christmas shopping somewhere very close to, if not on, December 24.

Nice post.

Rob Robinson said...

I did all of my shopping on Dec. 24 one year. It was a rough, rough day.

Thanks, Chez.