Black Friday Sales

22 Nov

Black Friday.

It’s starting on Thanksgiving Day today.  I have some pretty mixed feelings about it.  There’s a lot going on with the whole thing.

First of all, whether you want to call it a recession or depression or merely a downturn in the economy, most families are struggling.  Encouraging mass consumerism is just ridiculous.  Many people are worried about paying for the basics, forget mass holiday spending.

Walmart is the hot spot for a lot of people and Black Friday shopping.  They get a little bit crazed over it too.  We’ve seen years where people at Walmart, innocent workers who are not even making enough to live on, end up killed or injured.  Customers have also been injured in the fray for a cheap toaster or waffle iron or some electronic gizmo that will undoubtedly die before the next Black Friday arrives.

The whole name is taking on a more ominous meaning than the original one.  Originally, this was the day that retailers moved into the black with holiday shopping beginning.  Now, it implies grief and mourning and strife and disaster.

For the average family, there are a lot of dilemmas.  First, they have to stretch their budget.  Maybe their toaster died or they don’t have one and really want one even if they can’t afford it.  Buying it at an ultra cheap price means the difference between buying it or not.  Maybe they have four kids, and buying gifts on this mad day means the difference between having equivalent gifts for each child instead of being able to only afford gifts for 2.5 children.  They are motivated by their economic issues to fight the crowds and craziness to try and score that limited buy item.  I understand their motivation.

What I don’t understand is a company that has switched from selling American products to selling mostly cheap imported goods still being welcomed into more and more communities, where it kills the mom & pop and local businesses, then starts reducing the number of items that they carry.  Sure, they’ve ventured into mail order, and from personal experience, they haven’t learned anything about customer service either.  Sometimes, I wonder if it isn’t outsourced to some foreign country where proficiency in English is minimal.

Then, there are the employees.  Too many times, I’ve walked into a store with a manager ranting at the employees about something, haranguing them, and being less-than-managerial in their demeanor.  I’ve known employees of this multi-billion dollar corporation too.  They didn’t make enough to live on, instead depending on help from family, as well as government subsidies such as low income housing and food stamps.  They didn’t have insurance, and their schedules kept them working few enough hours that they just never quite were able to get insurance.  This wasn’t one store, or one town either.  This was many stores in many towns in many states.  This company doesn’t bring prosperity to a town, it sucks the very blood out of a town and smiles while it does it, happy to have been given tax credits and numerous government incentives in many cases to build in that town and destroy its economy.  The government continues subsidizing it by aiding the workers, bringing them from starvation to almost making enough to actually stay alive on.  In these cases, free school lunches, medical assistance, rent assistance, food stamps…it’s all part of the package, folks!

Maybe they should use that as part of their recruitment spiel.

So this very successful company continues sucking the blood of America.  The workers, not represented by a union, attempt to plan a strike to hit at the most critical time for this blood sucker…Black Friday.  It’s also the time when they are most vulnerable, with higher bills, holiday pressures, job fears, and job risks are all coming into play.

Will enough of them walk out and actually strike on Black Friday to make a difference?  Will this vampirish big brother of retail be forced to address their issues?

I have to admit, I don’t think they will be successful.  Too many of the workers depend too much on a paycheck that is too small for what they do.  Their spouses and children need them to go to that job and work every minute they can between now and the end of the year.

For them, Black Friday isn’t about iPods and iPads, laptops and toasters, televisions and shiny trinkets.  It’s about survival and swallowing the bitter pill of the reality of their lives.

Think about where you are spending your money and what you are therefore supporting.  Do you honestly appreciate cheap foreign goods, poor customer service, long lines, chaos, and poorly treated employees suffering through what is not much different than sweat shop treatment?  (We won’t talk about goods made under even worse conditions in foreign countries, which is how they can ship you that cheap item to begin with.)

You are voting with your dollars.  Think about where you are casting that vote.

Fair Trade, reasonable working conditions, human rights, consumer rights…all of these things are actually determined by where and how you choose to spend your dollars.

So when you go to that Black Market sale, look not only at the harried workers forced to give up their Thanksgiving holiday for your shopping experience, but at the labels that tell you where an item was made.  It tells you if it’s a fair trade item.  Think about those working conditions in foreign countries.

If you aren’t one of those harried workers who was left with no choice but to show up to work on Thanksgiving Day….I’m sorry.  I won’t be standing in line to make your day any worse.  I’ll be at home taking a nap.

What will you be doing?

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