If ever there is an opportunity to showcase the worst in American greed and over consumption, Black Friday is it.
I’m not saying it isn’t fun to shop and find terrific bargains, but consider the irony that Black Friday is just hours after Thanksgiving. Due to the timing, it’s making a mockery out of giving thanks. Are we more focused on snatching the latest online bargain from Wal-Mart even before the turkey has cooled, or have we taken a moment to value and appreciate what we already have? These sales encourage entitlement. Just because merchandise is significantly discounted doesn’t mean we must own it.
Ever since Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving is considered the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. “Black Friday” was coined in the 1960s to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
The Pennsylvania based REI outlet, a store that sells recreational clothing, hiking and camping gear made NBC nightly news several weeks ago when the company president, Jerry Stritzke, announced that it would remain closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving to give their 12,000 employees rest. It will offer major discounts and deals as well, just not on Friday. (You might find me there on Saturday.)
It could be argued that this madness is how retailers make up for meager sales during the spring and summer. On Black Friday 2014, U.S. online revenues amounted to 1.5 billion US dollars, up from 1.2 billion in the previous year, according to Statistica. In 2014, 36 percent of surveyed Americans were planning to shop in a store, while 37 percent planned to go online. During the same weekend in 2013, an estimated 417 million U.S. dollars worth of sales were generated online from iPads and more than 230 additional million from iPhones and Android phones.
According to the National Retail Federation, however, Black Friday sales have been dropping. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that 56.6 percent of shoppers this year started shopping by early November. This is up from 54.4 percent last year and 49 percent who had started by this in 2008.
My family and I have never participated in Black Friday sales because we don’t like dealing with the masses, and we can enjoy each other’s company at home. But mingling among the crowds and competing for those bargains is what I know many people relish. Listening to all the familiar carols played over the Musak, gazing at the holiday decorations and people-watching is what sets the mood for the season for others. Perhaps it is more tolerable to shop with cranky relatives than sit at home with them.
America still remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world. What exactly do we need more of? How about an awareness of and appreciation for the luxuries that the other half of the world will never know? How about hot running water? How about cold, clean drinking water? How about clean (reasonably) air? How about heat in our homes during the cold months? We are not refugees escaping war-torn countries. No air raids are dropping bombs on our homes. Christians have the freedom to practice their faith (and write) without fear of death or torture. How about the beauty and abundance that already surrounds us, if you simply know where to look?
Before we rush to Best Buy to snatch that 50 percent off tablet or iPhone, let’s take a moment to thank God that he has blessed us with the money and resources to purchase it, and thank the overworked employees. They are being robbed of time with their loved ones.