They’ve taken over the local department store by spreading their seeds like a virulent strain of kudzu. They innocuously tempt from the television, promising great deals on life-altering items like a 96-inch flat screen television, a guitar-playing Tickle Me Elmo and a gold-plated chain bracelet that comes with a variety of gaudy, ridiculously annoying charms. They’ve even made themselves comfortable in the form of asinine ads in your inbox: “Black Friday starts on Thanksgiving!” “Don’t be left out in the cold, get your gold!” and “Get an early start with these spectacular deals!”
And those, I am saddened to say, are the relatively tame ones.
But there’s something different about the day I like to call “brain fry-away day” this year which really has me questioning the limits of humanity: that stores will open at 8 PM on Thanksgiving Day.
Picture this: a wholesome-looking, J. Crew-outfitted middle-class family bonds all Thanksgiving Day over the creation of some GMO-laden, factory-farmed Butterball turkey and quasi-barbarically stuffing the carcass with twice-steamed rice. They then consume the damned thing amidst prayers of thanks and “mmms” and “ahhs” and exhortations about how delicious the spread was. Then they go watch The Nutcracker together, all Father Knows Best-like.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be, right?
This year, instead, die-hard shoppers will probably pile into the family station wagon, a turkey leg in hand (or in a Ziploc in case they get peckish later) and a soda in the other, a fully charged iPhone with all their digital coupons pre-loaded and ready to go, and gang way to the nearest Wal-Mart in the vicinity, because they simply need to have a PS3 for $150, like their livelihood depends on it.
Considering the earlier and earlier pattern of store openings on Black Friday in recent years, it’s not totally unexpected. Last year, stores started opening at 10 PM on Thanksgiving (which isn’t even Friday anymore), while the years before that, they typically opened at 5 AM on Friday, which was bad enough.
"The name of the game this holiday season is who can do it best," National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told the Chicago Tribune in a recent interview. "When (early openings) started in 2009, things were a little bit worse off in terms of consumer confidence. At that point it was very necessary for retailers to get out there before anybody else, and that literally meant before midnight."
Nevermind that people have actually died because of rabid, zombie-like, discount-hungry Neanderthals. In 2008, a 34-year-old Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a 2,000-man horde of Black Friday shoppers, who didn’t even wait for the store to open—they pushed against the locked polycarbonate sliding doors so hard, it finally gave way, snapping at the hinges. And they started “shopping.”
What kind of world do we live in that would allow and encourage this kind of behavior? Even if you play devil’s advocate and say that it wasn’t the shopper’s fault—it was how irresistible the deals were—you’d still lose, because that just means that Black Friday would be the only day to get items at a reasonable price… so why not offer those prices on other days of the year? Wouldn’t our economy and morale be better off?
Understandably, store associates are not happy about having to clock in at an hour that should be spent with family and friends (though in all possibility, they can quit—it’s entirely in the right of the stores to open whenever they please), not strangers ready to horde a car full of one-dollar microfiber towels.
Over two-hundred thousand signatures have already been added to a Change.org online petition created by a store associate, urging Target not to open on Thanksgiving night, a move they decided to make after learning of Wal-Mart’s 8 PM opening hour.
Here is an excerpt from the petition letter to Target’s CEO, Gregg W. Steinhafel:
“I’m not complaining about being a minimum wage worker (kudos to her for that!). … How can you expect workers to spend time with family and then stay up all night… You are most likely tucked away in bed while workers are in the stores pushing back a rabid crowd of shoppers trying to get an iPod. A 9 PM opening disgusts me and symbolizes everything that is wrong with this country. The world won’t end if people have wait 7 more hours to buy useless junk that will be outdated in a year anyway.”
Sadly, the petition will in all likelihood do abso-fricking-lutely nothing. Retailers don’t give a damn about values, common courtesy, or family time—all they care about is money. And it’s the willingness of a blind, soulless, materialistic flock of consumerist sheep that makes it all possible.
According to a news broadcast by CNBC, ten-percent of all holiday shopping is done on Black Friday itself. That amounts to the 226 million shoppers that showed up last year—and the amount of money they will grow higher still—by 4.1%—projected for this year’s debacle.
That’s right, the real culprit is not Wal-Mart, Target, Toys“R”Us or Best Buy—it’s US (double entendre 100% deliberate). We make the madness happen. We are the ones flooding the stores, wreaking both havoc and economic growth upon the nation. We are the ones who will make a mad dash to buy a Wii U for $89, because we can.
But that doesn’t mean we should.