Has The War Over Black Friday Ended?

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It’s a story that makes the news every year around Thanksgiving, but there’s not much to be seen of it this year.

We can’t remember exactly how old we were when we first heard about Black Friday shopping, but apparently we were older than most. We were maybe 10 years old when a classmate explained to us that her mom and aunts would pile into the car at 4am to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. It struck us then as insanity. Over the many years since, there has been insufficient evidence to alter that opinion.

Over the last decade, there has been an escalation of Black Friday sales. Stores began opening earlier and earlier, to the point where they were opening at midnight…and then, depending on the state, they started opening Thanksgiving evening.

There has been a lot of pushback, where people expressed their outrage that folks who are employed at a 24-hour Wal Mart have to work while they’re not. Locally, things haven’t gotten very heated, because RI law prevents big box stores (and liquor stores) from opening at all on Thanksgiving.

As someone who’s worked in and around the service industry, we’ve always found it odd that someone would tell people they don’t know not to do something that would make them triple their normal work pay and that person not be on the vice squad. If you try forcing a Newport bartender to go home to spend time with their family on the Fourth of July, you’ll have a fight on your hands.

But this year, there hasn’t been much talk about what a grotesque display of commercialism Black Friday is and we have three explanations why.



1.Other stories have sucked up all the oxygen.

Thanksgiving week is typically a slow news time, so it’s been a reliable technique to get some ratings if you send a news van to the mall and ask a few shoppers what they think about people having to work Thanksgiving night. Then you just ask the Target manager and a representative from SIEU what they have to say and you’ve got a quick news story for everyone to argue over.

This year, however, everyone’s already screaming at each other at the top of their lungs. Whether it’s about Donald Trump’s last comment or Syrian refugees or Trump’s last comment about Syrian refugees, nobody has any emotional capacity left to jump on the Black Friday story.

2.Equilibrium

Perhaps we’ve found retail’s new normal. Just as people who enlisted after 9/11 had to understand that they were putting themselves in a situation where there were going to be certain risks involved, getting a job at the mall means that you’re going to have to face the Black Friday situation. There’s not a lot of sympathy for someone saying “This isn’t what I signed up for”, because if someone is that ignorant of the greatest controversy in retail’s recent history, people probably give them a lot of smiles and nods and slow back-ways already.

Likewise, retailers have found the limit of how early they can open and they’re either staying there or backing off. On October 27th, the CEO of REI announced that he was leaving all of the company’s stores closed on Black Friday so their employees could enjoy the day in the outdoors, which was a grand gesture wildly applauded by everyone except for the guys who usually work there on Fridays who are going to be wondering why their bank account is a shift’s worth short when it comes time to buy Christmas presents and pay the rent come New Years Day.

3.It’s Too Early

We’re really hoping it isn’t this one. There’s a small chance that we’ve made our observation too early and the next three days are going to be filled with nothing people people talking about how disgusted they are with commercialism before they run to the mall to beat someone to death with a flatscreen TV they’re going to walk out with for 50% off.

Time will tell, but we’re hoping this one doesn’t come true.

Anyhow, how we are sure of a couple things. First, even if the war over Black Friday is over, America’s schizophrenic relationship with commerce will continue unabated, meaning that hostilities will flare up over something else in short order. Second, by Friday evening, Youtube is going to be full of brand-new videos of actual Black Friday fights.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Holiday Correspondent


Tristan's just this guy, ya know?