Bye-Buys: Reflections on Black Friday

With the phenomenon of Black Friday having assaulted me, I have found myself reeling on the ropes of the rings of chain stores and marketplaces. No, I didn’t even enter the ring, all I had to do was turn on the TV or get a newspaper or check the internet. I am a “buy-gone” “buy-withstander” now.

I used to be one of those that would make his way out to participate in the maddening sales events, rushing to get the newest, most technologically advanced “toy”. Growing up, my grandparents, who raised me, spent tons of money via credit cards to get my brother and I the most toys one could imagine for Christmas Day. Even though their intentions were good and their desire to make things memorable for us, they ended up in tons of debt. Even as I have grown and dealt with consumerism and materialism, I have had to pay the consequences of dealing with the credit monster and learn what it means to be disciplined in spending and giving, not just materially but in far more meaningful ways like time and attention.

Although I have noticed the trend with our society and even within myself over the years, it is really this year that I feel Black Friday gave me a sucker punch and gave me a sense of a black “I”. Even though the sales ads and marketers do their best to lure me in to their grips, they are really playing to a deeper darker sense that lays within each of us. There is an emptiness and void in us that we think can or would possibly be filled my more stuff. Someone once said:

“Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.”

Could this really be the case? Are our lives so empty that “Black Friday” is the best thing we have to look forward to? Is my soul, your soul, longing for something that a new gadget, HD TV, or ipod touch or ipad2 could never satisfy?

To say that Black Friday is not worth it to the marketers or stores would be totally bogus! Even though our economy is in the tank, check out these 2010 numbers from the National Retail Federation:

  • 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 195 million last year.
  • People spent more with the average shopper this weekend spending $365.34, up from last year’s $343.31.
  • Total spending reached an estimated $45 billion.
  • The number of people who began their Black Friday shopping at midnight tripled this year from 3.3 percent last year to 9.5 percent in 2010. By 4 a.m., nearly one-fourth (24%) of Black Friday shoppers were already at the stores.
  • Thanksgiving Day shopping – both online and in stores – has doubled over the past five years, from 10.3 million in 2005 to 22.3 million in 2010.
  • The top gifts purchased over the Black Friday weekend were jewelry, gift cards, toys, books and electronic entertainment.
  • While shoppers seemed focused on getting good deals, items of strong value were favored over items with the lowest prices.
  • Department stores (52.0% this year vs. 49.4% last year) and clothing stores (24.4% vs. 22.9%) saw healthy increases in traffic compared to last year, while the percentage of people who shopped at discounters this year declined 7.2 percent.
  • The percentage of people who shopped online this weekend rose 15.2 percent, from 28.5 percent last year to 33.6 percent this year – a strong sign heading into Cyber Monday.
  • About 106.9 million Americans plan to shop on Cyber Monday this year, up significantly from the estimated 96.5 million who shopped on Cyber Monday last year, according a survey conducted by BIGresearch for Shop.org.

(http://ocdeals.ocregister.com/2010/11/28/survey-black-friday-results-show-shoppers-spent-more/76754/)

The issue seems to be that we are consumed with consumerism. Our need to consume is devouring some of us from the inside-out and retailers and stores are happy to oblige. Not far from where I am staying this weekend, pepper spray was used to keep ‘frenzied shoppers” controlled in a Kinston Walmart as pallets of electronics were being brought in. Even though no one was sprayed in the “face”, isn’t it ridiculous that it had to be used at all? In past years, people have been trampled and beaten to death to save a few dollars on a toy or “gift” item. One of the first incidents happened in Secaucus, New Jersey, when a woman grabbed a kitchen knife from the housewares section of the store and stabbed a man to death over the last Xbox360! Haven’t we gone too far in our consumeristic ideology when it gets to this point? For more read here (http://www.uncoveror.com/blackfriday.htm)

What is at the deepest core of Black Friday? Darkness. Sin. Depravity. Emptiness. Dr. Janis Thayne of Brandine University was quoted saying that:

“We have been told by TV, radio, Hollywood and others around us that we must buy the love of our family and the esteem of our friends in the form of tangible gifts each December, or we risk finding ourselves unloved and abandoned in January.” (http://www.uncoveror.com/blackfriday.htm)

And so we do it. We go out and spend money we don’t have or money that could be used more wisely on things that we don’t need and things that will not really give us what we truly want or desire. There is no way to purchase peace or joy. There is no way to purchase love or buy someone’s heart. Man-made electronics, toys, gifts, gadgets, and even necessary items like clothes, will ever truly satisfy our deepest and most heartfelt longings.

With the more thought and focus on buying and spending, I have come to realize that I really don’t want to be part of that cycle. I don’t want to be another person falling into a virtual abyss of electronica. I don’t want to succumb to the ads, stores or marketers that say I “must have” this or that. I plan to explore more on consumerism over the next few days. Check back in for updates. Until then, it’s time to say: “bye-buys”.

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