Friday, November 21, 2014

Black Friday Sucks!

Of all the ridiculous and demeaning excuses to go shopping, Black Friday has to be the worst and, at the same time, the most obvious. Everybody knows that it's a scam and a rip-off, but they're tempted by so-called 'amazing' deals and go out shopping for a bunch of stuff anyway. Well, those of us involved with Very Us Mumblings have chosen to take a stand against
consumerism and tell everyone that Black Friday is Horrible and you should rebel against it by simply staying home and not buying anything, or just do something else that day.

How Black Friday Came to Be
The celebration or feast of the last harvest before winter is a cultural holiday that exists in several places around the world in different forms, but in North America, it's known as Thanksgiving. However, Canada and the United States celebrate Thanksgiving on different days. This is because while both are called Thanksgiving and involve having a feast to celebrate the year's harvest, the Canadian version is based on the traditions of the French settlers and the explorer Samuel de Champlain and occurs before Halloween on the 2nd Monday of October. The United States Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is tied to a specific historical feast involving the Pilgrims and Puritans and native peoples in 1621. Because of this difference, the U.S. thanksgiving takes place on the fourth Thursday of November, causing a one day gap (Black Friday) between the holiday of Thansgiving and the weekend.
  Police officers in Philadelphia noticed this particular Friday was causing traffic jams and trouble at shopping areas way back in the early 1960s. It was suspected that the reason for this was because theatres, nightclubs, sports teams, bowling alleys and most other sources of entertainment were closed or on hiatus from Thanksgiving through Friday, causing everyone to 'go shopping' because there wasn't anything else to do on this particular day.
    Philly police officers called this Friday 'Black' because of the hassle and traffic jams around shopping areas and malls, but years later some accountants began calling it 'Black' because supposedly a retailer that had been 'in the red' (i.e.: operating at an accounting loss) for most of the year, could put his or her business 'in the black' (i.e: operating at a profit) on this particular Friday just by offering deals that would attract enough customers to the store.
   If it had stopped there, however, no one would be writing  in their blogs about this particular day. Instead, Black Friday went on to become one of the busiest, and eventually; THE busiest shopping day of the entire year. The frenzy around Black Friday has only increased since about 2003, when people began lining up and camping out ahead of store openings, hoping to get the sale items before they're sold out. Since then, stores started opening their doors earlier to get rid of the people lining up outside their doors. First they started opening at 6:00 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. and gradually worked their way earlier and earlier every year to midnight and, for some retailers, into the middle of the afternoon of the American Thanksgiving holiday.
    This frenzy gradually creeped across the border into Canada when the Loonie rose sharply in value and, since 2007, has been accepted at or near par to the US greenback. This enticed Canucks to herd over the border to take advantage of those supposed 'deals'. Canadian retailers in Toronto and Montreal followed suit, offering their own Black Friday specials to stop the 'border jumpers' and eventually all of Canada largest cities began Black Friday sales.
    Then the UK began to get in on the act through US subsidiaries in England and Wales. This year, it's expected Australia will join in and, if we don't do something quick, the whole f*cking world is going to go Bonkers for Black Friday.

Consumerism vs Personal Consumption
   Consumerism is not the same as consumption and the difference is simple. Everyone needs a certain amount of food, shelter, clothing, communication, transportation and entertainment in order to make life both livable and worthwhile, but beyond meeting those needs, more consumption will not necessarily make a person happier. One bowl of ice cream might make you happy and satisfied, while eating three bowls in one sitting will probably fill you up too full, making you feel lethargic and sleepy. If you keep eating too many bowls of ice cream often enough, all that sugar and cream will cause cavities, weigh your body down with calories and raise your blood pressure.
Consumerism has an effect on your life also, though instead of giving you hypertension it will more likely fill your house with a bunch of stuff that you can't or won't use, drain your bank account and quite possibly put you in debt with some credit card corporation.

   The truth is that consumerism is not about personal satisfaction, but a type of system that is always intent on selling you, the consumer, more stuff. This 'stuff' is advertised as 'new' or 'improved' but usually isn't really new, just a new model of the same thing you already have and not that much of an improvement to justify buying a new one. It's also advertised as 'durable' or 'made with space-age materials', but when compared with the stuff you already have or the stuff your parent's had, it's probably more flimsy and likely to wear out or break down sooner. Consumerism is also about brand-names, and each brand name is supposed to suggest 'quality' or 'innovation' or 'coolness' or something that makes you, the consumer, different from the rest, but only if you buy that particular brand name. Of course, the 'quality' associated with such brand names is questionable, the 'innovation' usually doesn't justify the price, and the 'coolness' of the product is very, very temporary.
    Consumerism is not about wearing things out or keeping something properly maintained so it lasts a long time. Consumerism is about throwing out the old model as soon as the new one is released, acquiring the brand name for 'status', buying new when the old is not only still working but quite useful. Mostly, it's about spending money, sometimes more than you can afford, for things that aren't nearly as cool or fashionable as advertising would make it seem. Consumerism creates an endless cycle of wants and purchases that are never fulfilling and only encourages more shopping for consumer products that are not going to help you, make you feel better, or make you cool.

It's a Lie and a Scam
   A certain shoe isn't cool all by itself. It's cool because Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Steve Nash and other hall-of-fame-level professional athletes make these products seem cool. Corporations pay a lot of money (hundreds of millions in the case of Basketball athletes and the shoe business) for the endorsement of products and brands by pro-athletes and they're hoping you, the consumer, will make the assumption that the product is cool because so-and-so is in the commercial. Often, these corporations are targeting children, hoping that kids will become lifelong loyal customers, starting by pestering their parents into buying these 'cool', yet expensive, products.
    Some pro-athletes have caught on to these sorts of scams and have deliberately been more selective in their endorsements, but mostly it's up to you the consumer to beware and disbelieve the hype. The bigshot brand name can often be substituted for a lesser known brand that is just as good but lower priced because they didn't have to pay millions to some famous athlete.
     Black Friday is the last wave of a whole year's worth of advertising that makes you want that shoe, or that phone, or whatever product these companies want to sell you. The hype, the marketing, the endorsement and even the discount are all scams designed to get you to spend your money. More importantly, a big Black Friday discount on an expensive item is really just the final push, the last little bit of bait to hook you and close that deal and get your money.
   'Doorbuster' deals are scams as well. Advertising high discounts on limited quantity items is an old trick to get more customers into a store to buy stock at regular price. A retailer, usually a large store capable of handling hundreds of customers at the same time advertises some item like a LCD television at a hefty discount but only stocks about a hundred of the item, while anticipating thousands of vistors to the store. Only the first hundred people to arrive get the benefit of this LCD TV deal, while the rest are encouraged to buy other items at regular price or only a very modest discount. 'Doorbuster' deals used to be called the 'Bait and Switch' and it used to be illegal, immoral and fraudulent (and it still is illegal in Canada and parts of the UK) but retailers in the United States get away with this tactic by adding a 'limited quantity available' tag to their flyers or advertising.
   And Black Friday, is in itself a scam. It's an excuse for consumerism posing as a cultural tradition. It pretends to be a part of American Thanksgiving tradition all the while usurping and cheapening everything that Thanksgiving is supposed to represent.


Black Friday is Evil

   Often touted by advertisers as 'the beginning of the Christmas shopping season', Black Friday is anything but holy. And if Christmas is unduly associated with too much consumerism, then Black Friday is consumerism incarnate. A day dedicated to purchasing where the only joy that could be wrought is by wrenching products out of the hands of your fellow man.
    The song 'Good Mourning/Black Friday' written by Dave Mustaine of MegaDeth in 1988 is a high-speed riff-grinding thrash-metal romp of the very best to come out of the eighties. As with most of the metal music of the period, it's subject matter is dark and even horrific. It is about a person who wakes up one morning, not feeling very well, and then because of a demonic-possession/psychotic fever goes on a one-man killing spree, murdering everyone in his path on a day called Black Friday.
  To those of us at Very Us Mumblings, the song may have shared the name of Black Friday but it seemed too violent, too far-fetched to be included in this blog. It seemed entirely inappropriate to associate a psychotic killer with the shopping version of Black Friday...  until we came across the infamous web site blackfridaydeathcount.com which has carefully amassed all the most terrible incidents associated with this supposed fun-filled 'shopping spree' and provided the necessary documentation of links to news articles to back-up it's rather grim statistics.
  The current totals for Black Friday as this blog is being written stands at 7 deaths and 90 injured since 2006, which compares surprisingly evenly to the sort of devastation that might be caused by a psychopath on a rampage. Suddenly MegaDeth's version of Black Friday doesn't seem so unbelievable. Furthermore, by simply avoiding Black Friday, the life you save might be your own.
   BTW: if you're not taking those stats seriously do this math: 8 Black Fridays = 7 dead!

And Finally...
 This madness has to end.
  To think that an annual celebration day has been created and driven purely by consumerism and the encouragement of people to 'shop shop shop' for 'super duper deals' seems like stupidity and madness run amok. The fact that it has nearly ruined a real traditional holiday like the U.S. Thanksgiving is even more crazy.
   We've said previously in this article that Black Friday is a scam, and it really is. It is a scam and con-game designed to get you and your family to part with your money. They tempt you with perceived 'savings', often things that you will never get, to get you into a store that you would not otherwise visit, and to spend money that you'd probably rather use for something more important like car maintenance, education or household repair.
   It is a scam and a con-game. And in this case, the retailers have stacked the deck, tilted the board, weighted the dice and rigged the wheel, too. Well, the only way to win a con game is not to play. In order for the big companies to win, you have to take out your money and put it down on the store counter. If your money stays in your pocket, YOU WIN, and those scamming retailers lose.
    Anti-consumerism is not about giving up your records or prize book collection. Neither is it necessary to throw out or sell the valuable jewellery, pictures or artwork that you love or other such items that you will enjoy for years and possibly even leave to your children. Anti-consumerism is about saving your money and time and effort to do the things that really make life worthwhile, and no, we don't mean more shopping.
    So keep your money in your pocket and do something else on Black Friday.
P.S: Feeling all X-mas shopping-y and want to be more convinced of anti-consumerism? Check out this blog's Christmas entry from last year! Or perhaps you just need something to keep you occupied now that you're not going to those Black Friday sales; check out our Direct Challenge to your Short Attention Span.  Maybe you want to listen to some more top quality music with an anti-consumerism message; check out our Very Us Mumblings review of the classic Styx album: The Grand Illusion