Black Friday: Embrace Your Inner Consumer

Michelle S. Lee ’16
Assistant Opinions Editor

For all of the fellow shopping-obsessed Smithies out there, we all know the greatest day of the year is coming up – not Thanksgiving, but the day after: Black Friday (and I guess Cyber Monday). If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already mentally prepared a budget for how much you’ll allow yourself to spend this coming holiday break, a budget you’re not likely to keep after you see that pair of boots on sale at DSW.

In the past decade, this wonderful time has become the busiest shopping day of the year, though it wasn’t always that way. Several states actually give government employees the day after Thanksgiving off (Massachusetts not included), and this has paved the way for pre-Christmas shopping to become the national phenomenon that it is. The term Black Friday came out to explain how retail companies that were previously in the “red” would go into positive numbers, or, the black, the day after Thanksgiving.

But it’s interesting to note that Black Friday doesn’t exist outside of America. In fact, the notion of mass shopping during the winter holidays, especially before December even rolls around, is acutely concentrated in the States. Though shopping during any national holiday is common in any part of the globe, they are usually intended for more traditional purposes: for example, buying food to prepare for the Lunar New Year.

Black Friday, on the contrary, is a commercialized bridge that connects two major American holidays together – Thanksgiving and Christmas. What you will buy next week will not necessarily be for Thanksgiving, or Christmas decorations, or Hanukkah lights, or whatever holiday you will celebrate this upcoming winter. For the most part, your budget will be for you (Christmas shopping is a whole other deal.)

And yet, this ceremonious occurrence is discussed more amongst individuals than Thanksgiving itself at times. Any time someone mentions they are going to a major city during break, someone always merrily chimes in, “You’re going to have so much fun on Black Friday.”

And that’s what I find fascinating about Black Friday: the epitome of capitalist holidays, only closely seconded by Valentine’s Day and Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, capitalism shouldn’t be conveyed as a particularly negative construct, and by no means do I perceive it that way. But this is a day, nay, a weekend, dedicated solely to self-gratification via consumption. Not just consumption of turkey and stuffing, but of clothes, bags and Yankee candles. There are few words that describe the aggressiveness of shoppers the morning of Black Friday, but one lesson can clearly be learned: we will do anything to increase our utility for the lowest cost.

It speaks to a curiously prevalent understanding of consumerism and satisfaction in our society – the two go hand in hand. We try hard to preach that the best things in life are free, and turn around and market it at (hopefully) perfectly competitive price. And that’s what we end up celebrating and gaining more and more satisfaction out of rather than the holidays themselves. Though we remind ourselves that it’s the company, the appreciation of loved ones, that truly make our moments bountiful in their merriment, we cannot help but admit that the stuff adds a little cheer as well. It’s nothing to be criticized of, so long as we keep it in moderation – we bring joy to ourselves, and give companies the revenue they need to move into the next fiscal year.

And this isn’t what we’re thinking as we log on to our favorite online shopping store on the Sunday evening of Thanksgiving break. We still meet with family, old friends, new friends, and gain experiences that genuinely cannot be bought with money. But we could also embrace the consumer side of us, the side that wants, this Black Friday, to finally buy that coffee maker of our dreams.

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