I’ve been thinking about the aftermath of Thanksgiving. No, not the calorie aftermath–that pound I may have added. No, I’m thinking about the crazy “black Friday” Christmas shopping aftermath. Well, they call it “black Friday,” but for many stores it began on Thursday evening. The turkey and cranberry leftovers were barely packed in the fridge when some folks headed out to their local Wal-Marts to shop the sales. Which also meant some folks also had to work that night. Then there were the many people who set their alarm clocks to wake them for the 4 a.m. sales.
How did Christmas shopping get so crazy and out of control?
It made me wonder: Who goes shopping on Thanksgiving night? Who gets up at 3 a.m., drives in the dark, searches for a parking space, and fights the crowds to buy stuff? And I do mean “fights the crowds.”
That weekend the news featured a story about a woman in Los Angeles who used pepper spray on other shoppers so she could get an xbox game console. Some 20 people were injured. In a Michigan store, women got into a fistfight over bath towels.
The Reuters News Service reported: “Videos of shopping pandemonium crowded YouTube by late Friday. One clip showed a crowd crushing and tearing apart boxes in a free-for-all for inexpensive cell phones. Another showed people flooding into a store as the gates were raised…The instant classic of the day was a video of an Arkansas melee over a $2 waffle iron. The shaky, 48-second clip shows a mass of squealing and shouting men, women and children climbing over each other, grabbing and tossing boxes…”
I guess this is what happens when you take the “Crazy Target Lady” commercials to the extreme. Those commercials have always made me cringe. Has consumerism in America become as unmoored and deranged as Crazy Target Lady? Are we that obsessed with getting more stuff?
Or is it that money is so tight these days that we will do whatever it takes to make it to the sales? Is it that the media has fostered expectations about what Christmas must entail: the perfect glittering tree surrounded by a mountain of beautiful packages? Maybe we feel intense pressure to buy more and more. And often, we end up with a mountain of credit card debt in January.
What do you think? Has shopping become a “competitive sport,” as one writer called it? Did you go out on Thanksgiving to snag deals? Did you have to work at a retail outlet that night? How was it where you were?
Kate Elliott is editor of Gather magazine.