Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Black Thursday?

The day I turned 34 was Black Friday that year. I had a four-month-old baby--it had been my seventh pregnancy. And that day I read a story about some Black Friday casualties: namely, a 34-year-old man (a Wal-Mart worker) crushed to death at opening time.

According to the story, the crowd smashed through the doors, knocked the worker over, stampeded him, and kept on coming even as emergency crews tried to save him. He wasn't the only one knocked to the ground. Also caught in the crush were at least one other worker and a pregnant woman.

And did I mention that my sister worked at Target at the time?

Since then I am pretty much cured of the desire to get that Black Friday worm.

So the news that stores are pushing back their shopping/working hours into Thanksgiving Day saddens me. I agree with this opinion by Erin Manning, aka Red Cardigan.
But forcing retail store workers, many of them paid only minimum wage, to leave their families during the Thanksgiving feast so they can prepare to be trampled even earlier than usual by bargain-crazed lunatics drunk on consumption and filled with greed, competitiveness, and a level of hostility usually seen only on the battlefield doesn't even begin to be justifiable on the grounds of charity or human decency. In fact, it's just the opposite; it's a decision by the multinationalist corporate owners to pander to the worst qualities of present-day Americans--and if they were doing it on purpose to hasten America's downfall they could hardly have planned a better strategy.
I'm glad the workers are speaking up for themselves. But as consumers we need to do our part. We have a lot more say about whether we show up to Black Friday-- now becoming Black Thursday--sales than the retail workers do. Erin Manning nailed it when she said these stores are "pandering to our worst qualities." And also, I daresay, exploiting the desperation of those trying to make ends meet. Because, let's face it, when you're trying to live on a budget, and still be generous with your family, some of those deals look pretty tempting.

But being responsible is about more than budgeting. Sometimes it means going without chocolate, or without your favorite brand of soda or cheese, or that sweet deal on a flat screen TV, only on Black Friday, now coming to you in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. Or just so many things under the Christmas tree.

I'm on the lookout for businesses that remember what it means to be human. The handmade movement has always looked appealing. Mom-and-pop shops can still be found. Nordstrom at least has the right idea. I'd welcome other ideas, if you've got them.

Because 34-year-olds and pregnant ladies and retail workers, like me and my sister--and you--deserve to have a break and spend a holiday with their families and, you know, not get trampled.

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