I have known quite a few BF shoppers. Most people I know who go, do so out of necessity more than anything else. I was the recipient of one excursion several years back when my significant other stood for hours in line to purchase two very necessary laptops for our growing businesses. Hers had died and I had given mine back to my former employer. Now, I was anchored to my desktop computer daily monitoring our businesses and out of the loop if I left it. The laptops offered us a modicum of freedom. Mostly though, the folks I know who attend BF are friends picking up a needed item here or there and relatives who are raising several often small children and who stand in line for hours to purchase the latest toys, electronics and more often clothes, shoes and the greatest of necessities of the brutal northern winters - coats.
I understand all of this of course. Who doesn't love a good bargain? And while for many of us, standing out in the cold for hours after stuffing ourselves full of turkey, pumpkin pie and football is just one more ritual in an otherwise long list of holiday pastimes, for others this shoving, pushing, grabbing and buggy bumping is done out of necessity to provide for our families. Our Black Friday shopping is less about want in America, it is increasingly more about need. Being allotted one day a year to fill this need in one of the most debasing manners I can imagine - the run-and-grab-free-for-all, to me is appalling.
Before you think that I am down on Black Friday entirely or am out to demean BF shoppers, please understand that nothing could be further from the truth. I am angry that our country of capitalist consumerism has descended into this bleak abyss of a Friday feeding frenzy to fight over a few scraps that corporations and manufacturers have trotted out for our freakish sideshow. For example, Wal-Mart cheerfully announced on Facebook on at 2 AM on this Black Friday that there would be 50-inch flat screens on sale at 5 AM at each store for only $299. There would be a minimum of 10 such TVs at each store. 10.
Think about this. 10 TVs for the masses of people already in the store shopping, those who read it on Facebook and decided to go into the lion's den in hopes of facing the lion. Who would get the TVs? The mom and dad who had been scrimping and saving all year to purchase a nice TV for the den so the family could have some time together? Or the single mom wanting to pick up a new TV for her brood to watch safely at home while she is working her second job? Or maybe the teen who has worked really hard this year and wants to make his first real purchase for his family, which has never been able to buy a new TV?
OK. I know I am laying it on pretty thick, but in reality those are the people who are in the lines. And they have been standing outside waiting while you and I were safely ensconced in the comfort of our homes watching the Patriots stomp the Jets. And for everyone who got the TVs, there were dozens more at each store who didn't. In fact, the comments following the Facebook announcement were that some stores had already sold out of the TVs at 2 AM although they were not supposed to go on sale until 5. Those families were having a Bleak Friday.
I think we should find a different way of doing this. Everyone purchase a lottery ticket to try to win an opportunity to buy the TV. $5. Give the lottery money to a local charity that feeds and shelters the homeless. Stop making people stand in line hoping for something that is beyond hope. Can you imagine the signs?
"All major appliance sales will now be conducted by lottery.
Everyone has an equal chance to buy a ___________________.
Fill in the name of your favorite electronic appliance here).
All proceeds will support the homeless."
Everyone gets only one lottery ticket. And you must be over the age of 16 to purchase one. The money goes to charity. 10 lucky winners walk to the checkout aisle with their purchases. No one gets hit with a buggy. No one pulls out a shotgun. Everyone walks away feeling like they had a good shot (hopefully). And in the meantime, with a little bit of sanity we can get on with buying the coats, tights, jeans, clothing and gifts we need for ourselves and those we love. And not feel so bleak about the Friday after the day we give thanks for all that we have. I'm just saying.
Robin "Bobbie!" White is the award-winning author of several books of poetry and short fiction. She lives in Boston.