Black Friday, holiday shopping, corporations, and Occupy Movement

22 Nov

Black Friday follows Thanksgiving as always.  In addition, many large retail chains have announced plans to open as early as 10 pm on Thanksgiving Day to lure in shoppers seeking their bargains for their holiday shopping.  They have some carrots to lure shoppers in too, and as always, these carrots are in limited numbers.  Often, the highly desired items are literally 1-5 of that particular item at any one store, resulting in near riot conditions as shoppers struggle to be the lucky one to grab it.

It also means that people have to cut their Thanksgiving holiday short, as they return to work that night, to work through the night with frenzied shoppers seeking that one item on sale.  Are these corporations really going to compensate their workers adequately for this?  Probably not, but in this economy, few dare risk their job by refusing the “honors”.

It brings up some other concepts too though.

The entire Occupy Movement is really about the way that corporations have taken over our lives, our government, and our economy, running things their way too often with too little consideration for anyone but their bottom line.  It’s about how the 1% owns and controls too much of the money in the United States and the world.

Most people support at least some of the concepts of the Occupy Movement, whether they are out there themselves or not.  Most of all, I deeply resent that a corporation is a person when it comes to rights, but isn’t one when it comes to responsibilities.  I don’t like the excessive tax breaks and other benefits they often reap.  I despise the bail outs that didn’t benefit the average citizen and instead fueled excessive bonuses for corporate CEOs.

How can I, in good conscience, even dream of shopping at a Black Friday event, when my purchases are going to directly benefit the same corporations that I am resenting?

Granted, most of us are in a situation where we have to make some purchases out of necessity.  It’s one thing to shop local, do it  yourself, do without, etc. until it comes time to buy toilet paper and other essentials.  Face it, we don’t have a local/do it yourself option when it comes to some of them.  It’s a wide range of products that are ONLY produced by factories owned by corporations that we do  need.  Even the computer I’m writing this on was produced by a corporation.

But…holiday shopping is something else.

Gifts are traditionally things to indicate how important someone is to us, and they are typically items that are somewhat “luxury” in nature.  We can choose where we buy it, and we can choose the item we are going to give as a symbol of our affection, regard, and love.

That leaves a lot of options for much more unique gifts than you will find at any store’s Black Friday offerings.  These also will often directly benefit your own community, or at least have a more direct effect on the American economy.

Buy handcrafted items from local sellers or even mail order.  Buy from your local winery or brewery.  Recycle and re-do.  Create things yourself.  Barter and trade for the items you want with the items you have.  If you do have to buy gifts, choose items that “essential” in nature rather than “luxury” in nature.

So what are we going to give?  We’re going to make & paint a table and chair for the granddaughter.  Other friends & family will also receive token gifts that have been hand made, mostly by us, occasionally by trading or bartering for the item we want, with very few items that are purchased.  What kinds of things will we purchase?   Mostly items such as flashlights and other useful small items as stocking stuffers.  We run with an outdoorsy crowd, and items such as fire starters, flashlights, lantern mantles, fishing gear, camping stakes, knives, tools, etc. are always highly desired and frequent purchases for our friends.  They also make great stocking stuffers, along with other essentials such as the long lighters, matches, lighter fluid, etc.  These are items that we buy throughout the year, and giving/receiving them as gifts is as much thoughtful as it is sticking to the essentials of life.  Even our wedding gifts included a portable Coleman grill and a Coleman camp oven!

We can’t entirely boycott the corporate control of our shopping habits, but we can minimize the effect of all the hype.  Why put yourself through all of this insanity anyhow?  Why continue supporting the corporate control of your life?

Stop.  Think.

Don’t buy anything but essential items, avoid the traditional luxury item purchases.  This includes decorative items too, by the way.

If everyone in America avoided the holiday hype, stuck to essentials like underwear, socks, shoes, basic clothing, household essentials, non-perishable “normal” food items, and other items that are normally purchased throughout the year, filling in with locally produced small business items, it wouldn’t take long for the corporations to take notice.  They do depend on our foolish spending over the next six weeks!

  1. Ask yourself if it’s an essential item for daily life.
  2. Would you use it in January, March, July, or October?
  3. Is there a locally produced alternative?
  4. Can I make this myself instead?
  5. Do I know someone who can make this for me instead of buying it in the store?

Don’t fall victim to the crowd syndrome and start pursuing things simply because everyone else has to have them.  Be willing to stand up and cast your vote with your dollars.  Independent thinking IS a virtue!  Just because your kids see things advertised on television and are dying to have that item doesn’t mean you have to get it for them.  Kids can be as much a part of the anti-holiday-corporate-syndrome as you are, and often will be even more idealistic about it than you are once it’s explained to them.  It’s a good way to start teaching them the value of standing by what they believe in too.  It’s the only way you can possibly raise a generation that doesn’t fall into the corporate consumptionism that is the standard today.

Show the corporate world that you want more than shoddy construction & manufacturing, crappy customer service outsourced to some foreign country, crowded stores, and advertising hype.  When you buy a product, buy one with actual customer service that works and a product that doesn’t even NEED the warranty because it works too.  Use a store that has great employees.  Write the corporate offices of the companies that treat you well, and thank them.  Complain about the ones that don’t, and use the numerous online review forums to talk about the products that you buy.  Make the corporations take responsibility for their products, their service, and their sales–whether it’s good or bad.

Be a Santa Claus and make that list of who is naughty and who is nice…in terms of products and service.  Check it twice and above all, share it with the world.

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