Don’t sell out the holidays for a bargain

by Madison Hopkins

MCT Campus

Once a year in the U.S., civilization as we know it ceases to exist. People who are otherwise perfectly normal, upstanding citizens transform into caffeine-driven hunters on the prowl for the best prey. Crazed mobs incite fear in the hearts of innocent bystanders while stampeding foward in an animalistic fight to the finish. No matter the obstacles or the lengths they must go, they persevere to reach the ultimate goal: Black Friday bargains.

This past Friday—or should I say this past Thursday night—was no exception.

The madness of Black Friday shopping has steadily encroached deeper into Thanksgiving night, subsequently rendering the actual holiday as nothing more than Black Friday’s Eve. Once upon a time, the holiday season was a time for families to celebrate together and enjoy each other’s company. Now, it seems we have replaced its true meaning with mass consumerism at insane levels. Believe it or not, the pilgrims didn’t rush out after a Thanksgiving feast for a super sale on bonnets and long johns. Such a level of superficiality is reserved for modern generations. Although I understand the allure of spending less to buy more, there is no reason these sales couldn’t be pushed back a few hours to spare what’s left of our nation’s dwindling traditions.

At least for shoppers, leaving the comfort of home to wait outside in the cold for a discounted flat–screen TV is a choice. The employees of these early opening stores don’t have this luxury. Every year, thousands of employees from big-name department stores are scheduled to work hours before opening to set up for the waiting mobs. Wal-Mart opened its doors at 8 p.m. this year, followed closely by Target at 9 p.m. In my house, this is prime time to eat pumpkin pie and digest the huge meal we just consumed, not go to work.

Apparently, quite a few employees feel the same way. One Target employee started a petition on Change.org, which now has more than 200,000 signatures. The purpose is to stop forcing retail workers to come in on Thanksgiving night for Black Friday preparations. Unfortunately, the petition was unsuccessful and business proceeded as usual Thursday night.

In addition to the terrible hours, workers are subjected to vicious consumers. As a former Black Friday worker myself, I can attest it is a horrific experience. For some reason, many people see their desire to reach the last pair of stiletto boots as a reason to forget any type of common courtesy. Regardless of our good intentions to help shoppers, we are often rewarded with violent shoves or the destruction of display items. Yes, it is a golden rule of sales that the customer is always right. But, in the case of super sale shopping, the customer is just crazy.

To make matters worse, shopping on Black Friday is a surprisingly dangerous activity. Pushing and shoving is not uncommon, but sometimes the shopping frenzy results in serious injuries. Last year, one woman pepper-sprayed more than 20 people in her shopping pursuits without anyone stopping her.

In 2008, an even more serious and tragic event occurred when a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by a stampede of early morning shoppers.

The situation has become so bad, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released emergency preparation guidelines specifically to aid stores in their Black Friday events. Our shopping habits are so ridiculous, they require government intervention. If we are willing to literally let people die for the sake of good deals, it’s time to seriously reconsider our holiday priorities.

On the sales end of the spectrum, it’s easy to understand why retailers are unwilling to let go of this newfound Black Friday tradition. According to the National Retail Federation, more than 226 million shoppers each spent an average of almost $400 during last year’s Black Friday weekend, accounting for more than $52 billion.

These incredible profits are obviously imperative to retailers’ success, but does it really need to be done so early? If stores that participate in Black Friday collectively agreed on a reasonable hour to open their doors, the same profits could be made without sacrificing Thanksgiving night. Similarly, if customers made the decision to behave like adults and retain some sliver of shopping dignity, we could avoid absurd fears of a stampede reminiscent of “The Lion King.”

Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season is a special time of year to appreciate what you have and those who are close to you. Searching for the perfect holiday gifts at low prices is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as it doesn’t take away the meaning of Thanksgiving. We need to see the holiday for the tradition it is and shopping as only a portion of that. Black Friday may have become a new American tradition, but it doesn’t need to replace those which have been cherished for hundreds of years.

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