by: Kara Crawford
My first day working retail ever was a Black Friday, and I suppose it’s somewhat of a miracle that day didn’t scare me out of retail work permanently. I was working at KB Toys and Bath and Body Works in the outlet mall in my hometown over winter break, and being on quarters, my finals schedule didn’t allow me to begin training and the like any earlier than Black Friday itself. That year the work was insane, but over the next few years, I would come to witness how truly intense Black Friday is as a cultural phenomenon.
The outlet mall where I was working opens at midnight on Black Friday, meaning that the workers need to arrive around 11 pm on Thanksgiving for their shift if they want any hope of finding a parking spot. One of my years working there, I got the distinct privilege of working the midnight to 3 am Black Friday shift. Immediately when we opened the doors, the store became so flooded with people that it was nearly impossible to move around. People reported to us that the wait to exit off of the interstate which ran next to the mall was a mile long, because so many people were trying to get into the mall. People were sometimes rude, bossy, and demanding, and if we couldn’t supply them with precisely what they needed, it didn’t always yield the friendliest reaction.
All for discounts, we* were willing to endure such miserable circumstances.
All for discounts, we go out at ungodly hours, sometimes dragging our whole families along with us, sometimes leaving them home sleeping. We brave traffic jams and overloaded parking lots, stores which would throw a claustrophobic person into a full-fledged panic attack, wait in lines to enter the store, wait in lines to get our products, wait in lines to check out, and wait in more traffic to leave the store.
All for discounts, we are rude, mean, bossy, and sometimes even abusive towards the other shoppers and the staff of stores. We push and shove to get to be the first in the store or to beat that little old lady to the last discount. We are sometimes in such a rush to get into the store or to get to the discounts that we end up trampling other people to death and many other horrible acts of the sort. We lose sight of all humanity and common decency on Black Friday.
All for discounts, we go to stores that are known violators of worker’s rights, paying ridiculously low prices for products that were probably made by workers who are grossly underpaid, with the vast majority of the profits of these purchases, of course, going straight to the pocketbooks of a few corporate bigwigs.
All for discounts, we allow an absurdly consumeristic culture to get the best of us. We buy and buy and buy and buy until our houses are full of boxes and debt because we think that each of our family members and friends needs many extravagant holiday gifts to add to the things that they already have.
The grand irony is, as was repeated time and again on social media this year, that all of this happens the very next day after a holiday which is supposedly for giving thanks for the many blessings which we enjoy in our lives. We consume and consume without any second thought about the environmental, human, social, or economic consequences, or any of the other variety of ways that our purchases impact the world around us. These, of course, are always something to keep in mind, but is possibly the farthest thing from our minds.
We need to leave this consumeristic mob mentality behind. It needs to become a thing of the past. The holidays should be more about the things that truly matter in life; it’s not about that 300 inch flat screen.
Kara Johansen Crawford is a graduate of DePaul University, with a BA in International Studies and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Kara has been actively involved in activism and community service for much of her life and is particularly passionate about labor justice, queer issues and engaging faith communities on social issues. Kara is currently serving as a Mission Intern with the United Methodist Church at the Centro Popular para América Latina de Comunicación, based in Bogotá, Colombia. Follow Kara on Twitter @revolUMCionaria and on her blog.