Friday, Black Friday
I can’t believe the news today. Walmart has announced that its Black Friday sales will start at 8pm on Thursday. In other words, on Thanksgiving evening, right after dinner. Holding big Christmas sales on Thanksgiving Day is tasteless and callous. Because it’s not about the shoppers. It’s about the workers.
Why “Black Friday”?
Black Friday started out as a fluke. Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, so many employers gave their workers a four day weekend. Soon it became a big shopping day, acquiring the ominous name of Black Friday. The origin of that name varies depending on who you ask. Many companies say that it’s the day of the year that they go “into the black”, making a profit. But this is untrue. More likely it was named by the workers, not the shareholders. It’s called Black Friday because it’s a nightmare for retail clerks. The “in the black” derivation was made up by PR departments after the pejorative name had already stuck.
Shopping Mobs and Martyrs
Black Friday was traditionally the start of the Christmas season and the biggest shopping day of the year. Today it’s neither, but it’s still a big deal. Boosted by the Great Recession of 2008, Black Friday has gotten bigger and crazier than anyone could have imagined. Instead of opening at an early, but reasonable time, stores started opening at 4 am. Then midnight. Now they’re up to 8:00 the night before.
As the shopping has started earlier, the deals themselves have gotten crazier too. Instead of marking all TVs 10% off, stores have switched over to “doorbuster” deals, marking the first 100 TVs 90% off. This allows then to advertise impossible deals (all “while supplies last”) while bring people to the store to by more profitable items. It also leads to riots, stampedes and deaths, such as the Walmart employee who was trampled by a Black Friday mob as he tried to open the door. No one should be killed because of a holiday sale. No one should even be injured. It’s just a sale.
Bigger Than Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is one of our greatest holidays. It’s an American phenomenon, but its not overtly patriotic. Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, but it’s not at all religious. It’s a day you can celebrate with friends or family, wherever you are. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day to relax, but for millions of retail workers, it’s now a day to bust ass.
It’s bad enough that store clerks can’t go out of town to see their family, but now they have to trudge to work with their bellies still full of turkey. If they get to eat turkey at all. And sure, some people are always going to have to work on the major holidays. We still need doctors and firefighters. We even need some people to run the gas stations and convenience stores. (At least some of them.) But we don’t need an “all hands on deck” Christmas sale when people are trying to spend time with their loved ones. Black Friday can wait till morning.