Most of us are looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ve made guest lists, menus, grocery lists, pulled out recipes, thought about the table decorations, about what time we have to be up in order to put the turkey in the oven in so it’ll be done on time. We’ve pondered who best to seat next to the curmudgeonly uncle and how to make sure table topics stay steered away from politics or any other potentially divisive topics. We want it to be a perfect holiday. After enjoying the scent of roasting turkey for hours, the lucky ones of us will sit down to a bounteous table, laden with all of our traditional favorites. Some will pause and say grace before digging into the meal or will, in some other way, think about this holiday and its meaning. We will pause, at least for a moment, to be grateful for all that we have.
And then what? Well, some who work in retail will have to grab that slice of pumpkin pie and eat it on the run so they can get to work to make sure their employer is ready for shoppers. Others will have already been at that retail store in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day to greet delivery trucks, unload all of the Black Friday merchandise and put it on shelves.
Black Friday is an interesting phenomenon. The Thanksgiving Day newspaper is THICK with ads. After pushing our stuffed selves away from our dining tables, we could easily spend the rest of the day plowing through those ads, marking them, sorting them, putting them in GPS-ready order to most efficiently route how we will tackle the stores to ensure success in our quest for the goods we will vie for. We all love “deals.” We work hard for our money so we want to spend it carefully and getting a “deal” makes us feel good about ourselves. It makes us feel downright smart and a little self-righteous. So we’re willing to get up at 4:30 a.m. to be in the store line when that door opens so we can get the large screen TV or Xbox game or the latest Tickle Me Elmo or whatever it is our heart is set on.
My husband and daughter have been deal seekers on Black Friday for years. I have even been known to add items to their lists on my own behalf. No point in everyone losing sleep, right? And, yes, I have even joined them a couple of times (more bodies maximizes buying power).
As I stood in the dark outside a Target store a couple years ago with a crowd at 5:30 a.m., waiting for the door to be unlocked, I actually laughed out loud thinking, “Are we nuts or what?!” When the door opened, I literally raced, along with the rest of the shoppers, trying to be first to reach the supply of digital cameras so I wouldn’t miss out on this deal on this day. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. I don’t even like to shop!
This year has me shaking my head and thinking we just get more and more nuts. We can now go shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving Day! The stores are “offering” this to us because we, supposedly, have demanded it. Why are we doing this? We’re grateful for a few hours and then can’t wait to rush out to purchase new goods that we must have to make our lives truly complete. Wasn’t there just a HUGE sale last week followed by a “pre-Black Friday sale?” And you can bet there will be one every weekend between now and Christmas.
Our love affair with consumerism brings out the worst in us. We will lose sleep or time or both on what used to be a relaxed holiday in order to buy more stuff. And we will make lots of other folks miss out on one full day with their families so that we can do it. In our sleep-deprived states, we will point our cars to the retail beacons of light and give gratitude that we beat someone else out of a parking spot. This is craziness!
The retailers say if this “experiment” of opening early doesn’t work, they won’t do it again next year. OK, my resolve: The car will stay firmly planted in the driveway after we get home from sharing Thanksgiving dinner, conversation and gratitude with friends, and I’ll ponder a bit longer all that I have to be grateful for until some reasonable hour on Friday. Will you join me?