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Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Dreaming Of A Black Friday...NOT!!!

Before I get started with the second edition of the new blog feature I like to call the “Thursday Diaries”, I would like to take the opportunity to wish every single one of my American friends and readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

You know, I’ve always said that Thanksgiving (whether you celebrate it tomorrow or back in October as I do) is supposed to be a time of year in which we reflect back on what we’re most thankful for.  But for some people, American Thanksgiving means the beginning of one of the biggest retail experiences of the whole year.

And that’s basically what this “diary entry” is all about. 

November 22, 2012

It seems hard to believe that it is just a month and three days until Christmas arrives!  I tell you, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was walking down the street in just shorts and a polo shirt.  As I get older, I realize that time does not stand still.  In fact, as I grow older, that time seems to flow faster and faster.

If I were in the United States right now, I’d be celebrating Thanksgiving today.  In Canada, we always celebrate our Thanksgiving in October because our harvest season is a lot sooner than it is in the United States...which makes sense, since some people actually believe that winter in Canada lasts for ten months out of the year!

I remember as a little boy being incredibly confused over why the United States would have their Thanksgiving six weeks after we did.  I also remember being upset that Canada never had an elaborate celebration for Thanksgiving as the United States did.  After all, the United States goes all out for Thanksgiving with events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I watched a couple of the parades when I was younger, and I remember being fascinated by the amount of balloons and floats that veered their way down Times Square in New York City.  It wasn’t fair that the United States had a Thanksgiving Day parade, and Canada didn’t.  Sure, we have the annual Santa Claus parade in Toronto around the same time as the American Thanksgiving, but it just wasn’t the same thing. 

I wouldn’t mind Canada borrowing the tradition of having an elaborate Thanksgiving Day parade on our actual Thanksgiving Day in October.  That’s a tradition that I could stand behind, and I’m sure millions of Canadian children might feel the same way I do about it.

There is ONE tradition that is associated with the American Thanksgiving that I am NOT happy with though.  And this is a tradition that always takes place the morning after the American Thanksgiving.

I’m talking about the event known as BLACK FRIDAY!!!

I’m just going to be brutally honest here.  I despise Black Friday with the heat of a thousand suns.  I personally think that Black Friday does more harm than good, and the day actually brings out some of the worst characteristics in human beings.

Do you know why the event is called “Black Friday”?  Apparently the term was coined in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1961, as a term that people used to describe the increase in both pedestrian and vehicle traffic the day after Thanksgiving.  It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the term began to be used outside of the United States.  By then, an alternate definition of the day was coined by other people, as many retailers noted that the day after American Thanksgiving was the key date in which retailers began turning a profit...taking them out of the “red” and into the “black”.

Although a lot of people have claimed that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, it wasn’t always the case.  I know that growing up in Canada, the busiest days for shopping during the holiday season was the Saturday before Christmas and the day after Christmas.  It really wasn’t until the mid-2000s that Black Friday became the massive event that it currently is today, with some stores opening as early as four o’clock in the morning to hock their discounted wares to the public.

However, I need to make one thing perfectly clear.  I make absolutely no apologies in expressing how much I hate what Black Friday has turned into.  A day filled with disgusting displays of misguided need and total greed.

I searched various video sharing sites to find examples of what Black Friday was like in 2011...and well...maybe it’s best if I show a few visual aids.  This first clip is from a Walmart location in La Quinta, California.

And, here’s a scene outside of an Urban Outfitters store just one minute after midnight on Black Friday.

And what happens when you reduce the price of a towel to $1.28?  This.

Okay, you know what?  I’ve seen enough.  These videos are getting me riled up and angry.

I can’t believe that people would act so savagely just to get a deal on a discounted bath towel!  There were people being knocked down on the floor, people getting attacked by flying boxes, people walking around expressionless as they grab items without any sense of awareness to anything and everything around them.

But I suppose it’s nothing new when it comes to Black least in recent years anyway.  It seems that every year, the levels of violent outbursts and horror stories increase exponentially, with one terrible event after another.  I looked for some examples, and here are some of the worst Black Friday stories that I’ve ever heard of.

-      2006, Roanoke, Virginia – A man assaults another shopper at a Best Buy location.

-      2008, Valley Stream, New York – A 34-year-old employee of the store’s Walmart location is trampled to death as an estimated 2,000 customers walked over top of him as they charged through the doors looking for Black Friday deals.

-      2010, Madison, Wisconsin – A woman is arrested outside of a Toys R Us location after she threatened to shoot other customers in the line waiting to enter the store.

-      2010, Buffalo, New York – A man is trampled by customers at a Target location, in an incident eerily similar to the 2008 Valley Stream, New York incident.  Luckily, the man survived his injuries.

-      2011, Porter Ranch, California – A woman is arrested after she pepper sprays several customers at a Walmart in order to secure an XBOX console at a discounted price.  At least 20 injuries were reported.

Those are just five of many incidents that have happened on Black Friday.  And, I’m sorry, but no XBOX, 46-inch television, or bath towel is worth risking your life for.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing that I read while doing research on these Black Friday incidents goes back to the incident in which that poor man ended up spending his last moments of his life being crushed to death underneath the sneakers and slippers of two thousand people.  From what I understand, the shoppers at that particular store refused to stop shopping even after several employees of the store did their best to try and save the man’s life.  Even more chilling was the general reaction of the majority of the crowd.  They didn’t seem to care that a man had died...they just wanted their ten dollar toasters. 

Even worse, some of the customers seemed to be upset when the police attempted to close the store to conduct a police investigation into how the man died, allegedly claiming that they had waited a long time to get inside to get the best deals on the stock inside the store, and that they saw it as unfair that they had to leave the store early.

If this is the truth, then I have officially lost all faith in mankind.

As far as I am concerned, nothing is worth losing your life over.  Not even a ten dollar toaster.

I think the biggest tragedy of Black Friday is the fact that some Americans seem to have completely forgotten what the real spirit of Thanksgiving is all about.  The Pilgrims never waited outside of Old Navy for sixteen hours to get a great deal on performance fleece, and the Indians never pushed people out of the way to save fifty dollars on a cashmere sweater. 

Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what we have, not dreaming about what we want.  Thanksgiving shouldn’t involve standing outside of a store shivering in the cold, crisp air just to snag a good deal on a discounted Keurig coffee maker or the latest Super Mario Brothers game.  Thanksgiving is all about spending time with your family and friends, enjoying each other’s company, and counting yourself lucky that you get to spend one more holiday together.

(And no, camping outside of a Best Buy store in sleeping bags doesn’t count as quality family time as far as I’m concerned.)

Now, I realize that for those of us who have to work a job in retail, having to work on Black Friday is a real possibility (and as someone who currently works retail, my heart definitely goes out to all of you tomorrow).

But I will say this.  Since I began working in retail, I have made a commitment to myself to try and get all my holiday shopping before Black Friday so I have an excuse not to shop.  Black Friday is way too claustrophobic and chaotic for me to even buy so much as a package of gum that day, let alone a home entertainment system.

As it stands this year, I have about 75% of my holiday shopping completed.  I think I’ll finish up the rest sometime next week, just so I can avoid all the crowds.

There is nothing in this world that I want bad enough for me to endure that hassle.  And now that Canada is starting to have Black Friday events in order to keep people from cross-border shopping, I feel even more strongly about that stance.

Wake me up when Saturday gets here, will ya?

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