Opinion: Black Friday casts a dark cloud upon humanity and proves costly

Crowds walk past a large store sign displaying a Black Friday discount in midtown Manhattan, Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Oh, how I love Thanksgiving. That special time of year when you escape the doldrums of your everyday life, make a concerted effort to tidy up your humble abode, squeal about balloons, dogs and football even more gleefully than usual, your elder sibling introduces their longtime significant other to distant relatives, awkward family drama arises and it’s socially acceptable to stuff your face and tip the scales. After you down your turkey doused in gravy with sides of mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce and sample a variety of pies, you might express your gratitude for such simplicities as breathing relatively clean air, having a place to call home and being surrounded by people who care deeply about you. Meanwhile (and perhaps unbeknownst to those sitting at the table on either side of you), you’ve filled up your car with gasoline and/or your Amazon Prime shopping cart with discounted products in anticipation of Black Friday, the annual shopping frenzy that falls upon the day after Thanksgiving. Although you and countless others may feel obligated to spend lavishly on cheaper high-end merchandise while the rare opportunity presents itself, participation in this greed-driven ‘holiday’ comes at a hefty price.

Undeniably, Black Friday instills a foolhardy, toxic attitude into consumers. As I’ve already implied above, I find it unbelievably strange and awkward that a day after we express our thankfulness for the most wonderful aspects of our lives, we direct our focus to those material objects we lack. This is either quite a quick philosophical turnaround, or simply hypocrisy at work. It’s like forking over a few bucks to your local church’s donation jar to appear charitable publicly, whilst secretly withholding tips from hard-working, courteous waiters whenever you dine out at restaurants. We should be held accountable for our actions under every circumstance, not only whenever it best suits us.

Black Friday encourages not only self-contradictory behavior, but also impulsive purchases of high-end products that are still exorbitantly priced. Akin to radio stations’ broadcast of Christmas music, major retail operators and product manufacturers blatantly turn our attention toward the upcoming holiday from a ridiculously early timepoint (I swear, I’ve received emails with copious coupons almost a month in advance). However, there’s no need for you to act with such urgency and desperation; after all, you don’t suddenly need that fancy flat screen television, an additional current-generation gaming system or that new smartphone model with incremental quality-of-life improvements from its previous iteration merely because there’s a slash on its price tag.

Besides capitalizing (pun intended) on consumers’ greed to profit financially, retail chains push their employees unreasonably hard. The parallels we can draw to medieval labor conditions are rather disturbing, for said employees are forced to work long, arduous hours instead of spending quality time with their families, suffer extreme exhaustion and literally risk their lives for their occupation. We’ve witnessed barbaric bargain-hunters lose their minds and trample employees to death on their journey toward minor financial savings. Even online retail giants are incentivized to push their subordinates limitlessly in order to meet delivery deadlines (in fact, any college student can assent to the difficulty of delivering under incredible fatigue and tight deadlines, with countless orders to fulfill). Although retail chains make easy money on Black Friday, their association with its negative consequences may tarnish their reputations (and consequently their finances).

To be fair, Black Friday allows well-intentioned individuals to find stocking stuffers at cheaper prices before the holiday season’s busiest period, and one could argue the holiday is merely capitalism at work. However, we shouldn’t allow our greed-fueled motives to override the ideals of satisfaction, generosity and selflessness the holiday season supposedly espouses. It’s fitting that we refer to this annual occasion as ‘Black Friday’ because it’s like the bubonic (i.e. ‘black’) plague that commercial overlords, as contagious rats, spread to vulnerable consumers. Hopefully, we’ll devise an antidote that can eradicate the disease (or at least temper its most toxic side effects).


Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email michael.katz@uconn.edu.