I am writing this on what is traditionally called “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving that accounts for so many retail sales. At a Walmart near Los Angeles, a woman allegedly (or apparently) used pepper spray on fellow shoppers, presumably (details are still sketchy) to get others to move away from a display so she would be able to nab some low prices. We hear these disturbing reports almost every year. A few years ago, someone was crushed as the crowd pushed into a store to get first shot at the “best deals.”
I find the whole thing sad.
I understand that this was an “isolated incident,” and – at least in my opinion – something must be wrong with someone to resort to tactics such as those in order to get some great holiday prices. However, to me, there is a bigger issue at hand: “Where do we find happiness?”
I was not at that department store, and – in full disclosure – I try to avoid “Black Friday Sales” like the plaque. I do not like being jostled in mobs. I do not like getting up early – nor going out late. I do not like shopping. I hear stories of people camping out in order to be “first in line,” and I am always perplexed by the type of person who would do that. I am particularly bothered by the latest trend where stores are now opening on Thanksgiving itself, trying to jump start Black Friday (will Thanksgiving be called “Grey Thursday” soon?)
It bothers me primarily for two main reasons:
1. Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to spending some time feeling grateful. In my opinion (and I accept it is only that), one does not show gratitude by trying to get the best place in line to save 50% on home electronics.
2. I feel for the employees who must work these ridiculous hours. I understand that on some level, it’s a choice. However the combination of today’s poor economy and the fact that the management team probably won’t be giving up their family time to man the registers, leads me to believe “choice” is a fairly generous choice of words.
Therefore, with such biases, I’m probably not going to be a spokesperson for any “Support Black Friday” Association. (And I also accept that people of good faith might not share my opinion. I respect that and hope you do the same for me.)
However, let me also put it in perspective in the other direction. I’m not anti-capitalism and I also like nice things and I want “toys” as much as the next person. I realize that our retailers are essential to a healthy economy and they employ millions upon millions of people. They serve a vital need in our society and I’m glad they do.
Having said all that, there is a limit. And that limit has definitely been crossed when people are getting hurt or resorting to violence to obtain what they want. After all, it’s a fine line between pulling out a can of pepper spray and using it on someone to take from them what they have; and using it on someone to get something you want before she can nab it before you do.
The core issue is a mistaken belief that happiness is found in a box on a store’s shelf, rather than inside one’s skin.
If one is unhappy on the inside, no high-tech electronic, fancy outfit, or latest doo-dad will fill that void. No amount of “retail therapy” will make you whole if there is a hole within. (You can read this related post on what makes us happy.)
Don’t misconstrue my meaning to say “boycott Christmas” or “corporations are evil.” Those are discussions for another time or place. What I think I’m trying to say is that the old adage “’tis better to give than receive,” has some definite truth. In this case, however, it’s better to give to yourself a healthy sense of self-talk about what really matters. What you purchase in a store (or on-line) will come and go, but your sense of priorities and what you consider happiness is here for the long-term.
We need to make sure it’s intact before we head to the mall.