Friday, November 26, 2010

Fade to Black


For as long as I can remember, the idea of Black Friday has sort of frightened me. The name sounds so dark and sinister - like a day of mourning rather than a day of shopping. And the reports in recent years of shoppers getting crushed to death in stampedes have only strengthened that association. The possibility of someone wanting to save money on something so badly, that they are willing to wake up at 4 am, stand in line waiting for a store's doors to open, and then... walk over bodies in a rush to get to it, is upsetting. What can inspire that kind of drive for acquisition? - a laptop? a beautiful dress? a bicycle? Or just the very notion that "stuff is on sale today" and that "the thing to do is to go out and get those deals"?  Year after year, I find myself recoiling from those messages - not so much in protest against consumerism, as in protest against being expected to blindly follow those crude marketing tactics.

[image via radlmax]

I want to be free to do as I like with my holiday weekend, and I don't want to be controlled by a vague, socially-induced fear of missing out on a bargain. I will buy the stuff I need when I need it. "Black Friday" can fade to black; I am off to enjoy my day!

47 comments:

  1. Completely agree. I was just driving home around 11:30 and the exits for some outlet stores were backed up at least a mile on the highway in each direction. I just find the idea of being in that mess horrifying.

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  2. Amy said...
    "...just driving home around 11:30 and the exits for some outlet stores were backed up"


    No way! Already?? We were visiting my parents, who are just over an hour away, and took the train. It was super crowded, but I am now especially glad we didn't take the car.

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  3. I've never went to a black friday event, for I see the time and money spent on these "things" as worthless. The true harmony of this thanksgiving week is to be with family, and not with department stores.

    Sadly, I may not even ride my bike tomorrow seeing how people will be head-over-heels, jumping on their front seat, trying to get the best deal while not taking care of their personal and other's safety when driving.

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  4. I'm 50 miles away from the nearest mall, and I intend to keep it that way.

    I might go for a ride after the sun comes up, but have no intention of going anywhere today that I can't go on foot or by bicycle.

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  5. I have never taken "advantage" of the sales on this day either. There is something that just seems to be "too much" about it all!

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  6. It scares me! We have to go to Soho today to pick up a gigantic item so my husband can ship it to Europe for his work and it has to be today and we have to take our car and I am not excited about it At All.

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  7. I don't think it's the fear of missing out on a bargain that drives the frenzy. It's ritualistic (that is, human) behavior. Black Friday is the opening ceremony of a season that combines two of our most basic rituals: the ceremonial gift exchange (think blanket exchanges between Native American tribes), and the zeroing out of accounts so that we can start over at zero (think Germans throwing their wallets into the Rhine during Oktoberfest.

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  8. Luckily, I missed out on all the sales. ;^)
    After a meal that seemed to go on and on plus apple pie I hit the sack early and slept in a bit. I agree with you Alex. Thanksgiving is all about being with my Family and being grateful for all I have (and I don't mean material things).
    After the meal last night my brother-in-law and his girlfriend said they were going to a 10:00 movie and planned to head to some store after the movie for the Midnight sale. I asked twice what movie and they didn't even know. They were just worked up about the "sale". Ugh! Not for me. I try to stay away from the "maddening crowds".
    I plan on having a quiet day with the family plus a little peaceful bicycling.

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  9. I agree completely. And I work (for now) for an online retailer, which kind of just turns my stomach sometimes, although I do have some lovely cashmere sweaters. *sigh*

    This year we decided that except for the kids, no one is getting a present. We are adopting a family for Christmas and we're going to do an afternoon volunteering as a family - My mom, dad, sister, BIL and me. It's going to be the best Christmas ever.

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  10. Wow. I was listening to NPR and they had a clip on Black Friday I was thinking how great it was that I don't need to be shopping. Feeling pretty lucky that I don't need a bargain on a big-screen TV (don't even have cable hookup for it!). Remembering crazy past holidays where some relative had to find some must-have present or the holiday would be ruined.
    Then I start feeling "out-of-touch" because I'm not in the holiday season marketing groove.
    Then I see your post and rejoice. There are more sane people out there than.
    FWIW, I also didn't get the tax-free weekend. I didn't need anything but I did buy a bike bell. Probably saved $1.25...

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  11. We're staying home today and having friends over to make cookies, partly to avoid all the forced free enterprise in town and partly because we're gluttons(Hmmmm..cookies...).
    We can't afford to save that much money in any case.

    Spindizzy

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  12. black friday? to me, it's a day spent in the country, with a log on the fire, a stove with every burner occupied reheating leftovers from thanksgiving feast, a good book, and good company. oh, and limited internet access.

    no shopping for this family on this day. in fact, no leaving the house.

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  13. Cheers to all of you! I find the whole "Black Friday" frenzy terribly sad and am glad to know that I'm not the only one. I will be shopping at my local Holiday Handmade market this year, for any gifts that I'm not making myself. Although, my partner and I did just buy ourselves new hub generators and German headlights for Christmas...but, as you all know, that is necessity and not blind consumerism.
    Happy Holidays to all of you lovely cyclists!

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  14. Love the pictures, especially the happy bicylists who have their priorities straight and are NOT lining up at malls in the wee hours of the morning. Now if Harris Cyclery, Riv or Velo-Orange had a Black Friday sale... I might be persuaded to peek at their web sites.

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  15. Funny- I hadn't been aware of this Black Friday frenzy til this year. Living in Canada we have our Thanksgiving in October....
    Sounds like our "Boxing Day" which is December 26th.
    In a somewhat related train of thought- I was out walking the dogs the other night- the weather was cold and the roads were rough. What a pleasant experience- I was amazed at the lack of traffic. People that didn't NEED to be somewhere were obviously staying put- hopefully breaking out into conversation at home. Makes one realize that so many of our needs are just wants. Wishing a safe long weekend to our neighbours to the south. John.

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  16. Forgive an ignorant foreigner - but what is Black Friday?

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  17. Anon 12:35 - It is a big "shopping" day in the USA after Thanksgiving. There is a link in the first paragraph of the post to information about it.

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  18. As I read your post the TV ads for Black Friday at Macys, Best Buy and Target run back to back. "The holidays are all about inspired gifting." Who knew?? I thought it was about deeper things like celebrating family and friends. Do people "taking advantage of holiday prices" really know what they are buying or care or are they just looking for a "deal"? With all the problems we have with our enonomy and unemployment/employment uncertainty the message still is to go out and shop, spend money you don't have as long as you are saving "50-75% off department store prices". I also find it upsetting. I won't be shopping today. We're enjoying a morning at home with coffee and homemade toasted bread. We're going skiing in the woods later and probably sit in front of the fire this evening, hopefully with the TV off.

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  19. No Black Friday for me! Unfortunately, I will be spending the day getting the bicycles into storage as the temperatures drop into the single digits. :(

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  20. I read that 75-80% of the Black Friday sales are in electronic devices. More and more we are feeding the monster of technology, and more and more the beast is impoverishing those who worship at its altar. Bicycles are low tech and imminently fixable, whereas most high tech "gadgets" get flung in the trash every couple of years. What a sad commentary Black Friday is on the spiritual vacuum in our nation.

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  21. No Black Friday here...unless you count the fact it is dark, overcast and raining. I saw via the news ticker that the interstates had multi-mile backups near the malls and there have been multiple accidents.

    I have never been a good consumer (by US standards). We support a variety of charities in our family's name in lieu of presents. The only exception being the youngsters in the family. They get a single, durable, useful present from us.

    Time to grab a couple of beers and go true my tandem's wheels and contemplate some work on my Raleigh Roadster :D Need the tandem for vacation in a week.

    Aaron

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  22. @ MTcyclist : check your favorite online parts sites on Cyber-Monday(web equiv of black friday)for bike related deals

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  23. Samuel Chilbolton GamesterNovember 26, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    hahah it is perhaps a sad irony that the best times to enjoy a day in the saddle are those when everyone else seems to be doing something daft, eg shopping, big sport events, hec Christmas Day is a great day to ride a bike!

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  24. Here here. I'm on cape cod. Forgot to pack girlpie underwear so today we had to go to tjmaxx for undies. We.stood in line to buy 4.99 worth of product that was greatly needed. Then got needed new smoke detectors for out fireplace heated house. Home to leftovers ( a happy girl who changed right way) and naps and library movies. The view of the rainstorm on the water and now the clouds clearing to reveal bit of blue sky as the sun set. More of a lovely grey Friday here.
    Vee

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  25. If I can catch a good deal online for something I already intend to buy for a gift or for myself, I'll spring for it. But I loathe the idea of fighting crowds and traffic, so I usually avoid going near shopping areas between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This time of year really brings out the worst in people.

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  26. The best thing about those electronic devices is the ability to shop online. No lines online. I love it! The only place I shop in person is a bike shop.

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  27. Samuel Chilbolton Gamester said...
    "hahah it is perhaps a sad irony that the best times to enjoy a day in the saddle are those when everyone else seems to be doing something daft, eg shopping, big sport events, hec Christmas Day is a great day to ride a bike!"

    It's so true! In fact, the very first time I ventured out on my bicycle to commute to my job was on Christmas day (Yes, I even have to work on Christmas. Donkeys like to eat everyday.) There were hardly any cars at all. It was the perfect day to be adventurous!

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  28. I think that's true about the Black Friday sales being mostly about electronics - which is probably an additional reason I am not interested. I update my laptops every 2-3 years, but other than that I am very seldom in the market for anything in that category. Don't have a TV, don't like "smart phones," listen to music on my computer, stove and fridge belong to the landlord... what else is there? I would like to get a sewing machine for the holidays this year, but that alone is not worth all the running around.

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  29. @ Velouria
    I would not be shopping for a new sewing machine, I would haunting the thrift stores and yard sales looking for an old Singer 400/500 series. I have a beautiful 550 that came with all the accessories and a decent cabinet, paid $40 for it at a yard sale. Works like a champ and I can still get it serviced and get parts for it.

    Aaron

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  30. Aaron - I would love that, but I have looked around and all the vintage ones I have come across seem to require work. I need one that is simple and reliable. I want to actually use it (for sewing) rather than fiddle around with it or look for places that will service it.

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  31. Velouria, there is a wonderful guy in London who restores, updates (when necessary) and sells Singer Featherweight 222s. They are def the loop-frame Raleigh of sewing machines. Let me know if you want his name.

    I use mine and it's perfection.

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  32. Neighbourtease, I'd love to take one of these wonderful old black sewing machines down to bare metal.

    I know King Edward would not have approved but can you imagine?

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  33. Black Friday doesn't exist in canada, but canadians go down to border towns and spend their money. I find it distressing. News footage of people actually camped out in front of a store-rows of tents! What does anyone really need that they can't get any time of the year? The worst thing is that retailers raise their prices so much that when they have huge sales like 70% off they are still making money! How about lowering prices to a humane level period? Another thing is that it is approaching the end of the month which for most people means rent is due, you're waiting to get paid, so who exactly has oodles of money to spend right now? Anyway, nothing I'd be interested in would be in any department or big box stores.
    Boxing day will be here soon enough where indeed Canadians line up overnight just like Americans.

    Sewing machines are a wonderful gift. Find yourself a beautiful 'featherweight' sewing machine! All of them were beautiful and built to last forever-not just singer. Even if you find one at a thrift store that does not work you can take it to someone who will fix it, wire it up and it will run forever as neighbourtease mentioned! And talk about deco gorgeousness. The new sewing machines do too much, are so fiddly and plasticy. I have a huge pile of sewing projects but so frustrated with my machine that I have given up. i am on a featherweight hunt myself.

    Happy thanksgiving weekend and enjoy your families and your bikes!
    Heather

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  34. Does anyone beside me not celebrate these "holidays" at all? I abstain from Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the other boxes on the Hallmark Calendar to the best of my ability.

    (And yes, my life is a dreary gray, lonely, empty existence, thanks for asking! :P)

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  35. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
    But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
    For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." -Matthew 6:19-21

    I can't speak for the other "holidays" but Christmas is about celebrating and honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, no matter what hallmark wants to tell you about it.

    The truth is that all material things, even our much appreciated bicycles, will ultimately become less than worthless dust. We would all do well to take that perspective when it comes to material possessions. Enjoy them while you have them, use them when you can to better others, but remember what things truly have value and what do not.

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  36. I do venture forth in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday, but not to shop.
    We(friends and I) go out of morbid curiosity to see throngs of humanity at their worst as we watch the store openings from a safe distance then mingle to see the carnage up close.
    It is that abhorrent horror that you cannot look away from like watching a train wreck.

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  37. The comment by Ammorider covers a lot of ground, really. I'm more on the Festival Of Lights side of things, but still...

    I prefer to abstain from "Black Friday" type events.
    While I do not mind commerce at all, I have no wish to subject myself to vast crowds for the sake of saving a few dollars on stuff I don't truly need. My shopping patterns are fairly atypical, anyway.
    We repair and reuse things, and a lot of our day-to-day stuff is quite old. (For example, our "new" kitchen stove was built in 1935, and we had it mechanically refurbished for 1/3 the price of a comparable new one. And we use my wife's grandma's toaster, built in 1940...it works very well.)

    I can attest to the durability and value of a good Singer Featherweight sewing machine, too.
    My wife has one built in the 1940s, and my mother has several ranging from first issue to the 1970s.
    They are both professional quilters and use modern machines as well, but the lightweights are true workhorses and insanely reliable, well-made machines.

    Herzog, don't tell me you skip both St. Stupid's Day *and* Festivus?!?
    (mutters darkly at the irreligious bent of today's youth)

    Corey K

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  38. I've spent too many years in school and working my way up the organizational ladder to stand in line at 3am to save $150 on some electronic device that I probably don't need anyway.

    I do get the thrill of the bargain. I'm a total bargain shopping addict. But my thrill comes from knowing where to go anytime to get the truly great deals. I like knowing the out of the way bargains.

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  39. david...no the other one!November 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    I had never participated in this wretched maddness until this year. I was abruptly awakened from dreaming of bicycling in winter's Russia. Snow falling everywhere in evening darkness, Minerets brightly colored and lighted against the soft darkness of the snowy sky. Bicycles parked without a care in the world in lighted outside hallways.
    Oh well.. shopping was a nightmare, people had been at the stores at eleven the night before. I thought maybe there would be five to ten people. Then we found out that if you wanted a item that we were seeking, you needed to be at the front of the line because they handed out vouchers for the item, of course we found this out after entering the store along with a couple HUNDRED others.
    Long story short, on way home we stopped to "Window Shop", look but not buy. strolling past Best Buy, we decided to go inside for one more try. Yes, three hours after we got up to rush to the cliff like lemmings, we found our item regular price ten dollars less than the "SALE".
    That's when I really missed bicycling in Russia......

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  40. Calling it "Black Friday" makes about as much sense as "Pink Moon" did in a car commercial.

    To me, going shopping on Black Friday is like going to Times Square on New Year's Eve. I've done each one once, and I can say that I've done them. But I have no desire to do either one again.

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  41. @ Justine

    The Black part has to do with the color of ink. Supposedly Black Friday is the first time the stores are going to "go into the black" and show a profit for the year.

    We owned and ran a small bridal and formal shop for several years, our best season was prom, that was our profit maker for the year. The bridal stuff just paid the salaries and kept the lights on.

    Aaron

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  42. Thanks for posting this! It sounds like we're all kindred spirits here!!!

    My Black Friday involved a lot less people.

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  43. We slept in and went out for a late breakfast at one of our favorite places a few minutes away, then came home and did just about nothing all day :) it was a great day :)

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  44. At our local "outlet mall" here we saw cars pulling in at 6:00 PM to wait SIX HOURS for the doors to open at midnight. Cold night so they no doubt idled their engines as they waited to max out their credit cards.

    It has gotten so bad that they have to put up signs on I5 that there is no parking on the freeway shoulders and there have been hour long traffic jams...Redonkulous!!!

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  45. I am so with you on this. Moreoever, I can't seem to ever remember what "Black Friday" is meant to refer to and so whenever it's said - a small dread rises up in me before I realize we're just talking shopping. Though the dread still lingers - and makes me wonder what is this "just shopping" really?

    Are we the consumed as much as the consumer?

    Great post.

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