Monday, November 28, 2011

Not shopping

I'm not a fan of the Black Friday hype. I think it's an idea whose time has gone - back in the days (days that maybe never existed), when people shopped for Christmas only after Thanksgiving - when stores like the Woolworth's and the downtown department stores opened their toy departments the day after Thanksgiving, when Christmas windows were revealed that made sense.

Now, it's mainly a showcase for the worst sort of uncivil, selfish behavior.

(HH has her own take on it here).

I went one year. There was something, I don't remember what, that my dad wanted to get. So it was hyped as "It'll be FUN. It'll be a family thing."

Um. No. No amount of free elf ears (that was one of the promotions early shoppers got) or free candy or discounts could make me do that again. And the shoppers in my parents' town were more civilized than the stuff you see on the television. It was just very crowded, and we wound up waiting a while outside in the cold wind, waiting for the store to open, and then there was shoving and long lines at the registers and I can't even remember if we got what we went for or if they were already sold out.

I watch with dismay, though, the people who trample other people, or knock them down and grab what they had, or, in one case this year, pepper spray other shoppers (Recruit that woman for the Davis police!). Is your humanity REALLY that cheap, that it can be bought for $50 off some television set? Do you REALLY need a $2 waffle-maker? (I manage to exist without a waffle-maker, somehow.)

I think part of this bad behavior is the fact that it seems a lot of people don't feel shame any more. They don't think there's anything so awful about being featured on the news for being nasty and unpleasant to their fellow humans. (Hell, some people may even get off on that kind of publicity).

Also, it makes me wonder: if someone's willing to knock down and perhaps trample another person over a video game, what will happen if there's ever a shortage of a genuine necessity, like food? Makes me shudder to contemplate. (And makes me grateful for my stored supply)

I see Black Friday deals meeting one of three fates. Only the first one do I think is a good result:

1. A critical mass of the populace says "Forget that noise" and stays home, and either cyber-shops or shops on other days. For me, it's not worth whatever discount on whatever hotly-desired item to deal with the crush of humanity. So the stores eventually decide it's not worth it, it's not worth the ill-will it generates, and give it up.

2. Enough of the trampled/elbowed/whatever shoppers decide to sue the retailers, whether they have grounds or not. It becomes enough of a nuisance that the stores decide it's not worth it.

3. The government decides Something Must Be Done! and bans Black Friday sales. Or bans discounts over a certain percentage. Or requires a lottery system for people to get in and get the stuff. Or something. And that would be the worst one, because once that camel's nose is under the tent...well.

I don't know, really, how bad the "bad" Black Friday behavior is. I'm sure part of it is that there's more publicity as a result of the 24 hour news cycle and the need, apparently, to show all the aspects of shocking human behavior that can be found. I do know I've been shoved, pushed, run into by people who can't look up from their cell phones, banged with shopping carts and all that at my local grocery during busy times, and it fills me with dismay...people don't "see" that the other people around them are people. It makes me wonder if we're just getting worse as a culture, and if it's going to culminate in a future where lots of people (like me) are afraid to shop at busy times because of what could happen.

Because, really: is a cheap television, or a difficult-to-find video game, or some super-discounted kitchen gadget REALLY worth it? Is it worth acting like an animal to save a few bucks? I know times are hard right now, but as I said: I survive without a waffle maker or video games and I have only one television in my house, and it's neither big-screen nor LCD.

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