CONSUMER NATION: A BLACK FRIDAY RANT
I have to admit - I don't shop much. So clearly I have a prejudice and an agenda. I believe that Americans (and much of the rest of the world) have had their minds colonized by corporate branding and materialism. It unsettles me for many reasons - one of which is that people have given up their independence as a human being to become a corporate appendage or slave.
Black Friday used to be the day after Thanksgiving. But now the greedy corporations have moved Black Friday to Thursday, Thanksgiving day, and the media is full of excited reports about the great success of this affront to the sensibilities of those like me who want to enjoy a day without the ever present hounding we get from the "retail industry".
One of the more ridiculous rituals that has been ushered in during recent years is the football huddle of workers before the store opens. Joining hands in a circle, the highly underpaid staff are gathered by management for a rah-rah-rah moment. What is the purpose of this gesture? Team work? A solemn pledge to serve the valued customer? No, it is all about sell, sell, sell. The customers and the workers are slave driven commodities and nothing more.
The stores advertise in advance a few highly discounted items to attract the "smart bargain shoppers" who are led to believe that they are getting over on the mega-giant corporation by being first-in-line to grab the super deal. The idea is to carry all you can. In our local newspaper (the story should have been moved to the Sports section) one shopper gave her sage wisdom on techniques required:
Cat Bibeau started her Black Friday shopping at midnight at Walmart and arrived at JC Penney as it opened just before 6 a.m.
"This is not for the newbie shopper," she said. "Only veterans."
The secret is to have a list and work around the clock, hitting stores as they open, she said.
Other advice: dress comfortably and wear a backpack to leave hands free to carry bags.
Erika Jordan of Parsonsfield shopped at JCPenney as a team with friends and family members. They had a game plan. Some of them hit the shoe department while Jordan and others stocked up on pillows and housewares.
"We've got to go to the car and unload and come back in," Jordan said, laughing.
Beverly Maierhofer of Yarmouth, who arrived at the mall Thursday afternoon with her twin 16-year-old daughters, spent 15 minutes trying to find a parking space. At Forever 21, where her daughters bought sweaters and scarves, they waited another 15 minutes at the cash register.
Her total Black Friday savings: "Zip," moaned one of her daughters, Maddy.
"We are like the most pathetic shoppers," Beverly Maierhofer said.
Yes, and if you fall short at this gorging ritual then indeed consider yourself a failure. You are not as accomplished as your neighbor who was able to get a "deal" on a flat screen TV even though they already have two others inside their over stocked home.
In America the overriding word is success. I remember the cheerleaders at my oldest sister's high school back when I was just a boy. It went like this: S - U - C - C - E - S - S THAT'S THE WAY WE SPELL SUCCESS!
This cheer was repeated over and over and each time it got faster and louder so before long the theme was pounding in your fertile brain. This is one more way the corporate mental occupation begins. It's ever present in our lives. The seed of the SUCCESS mythology firmly planted.
Those who resist this process are told there is something wrong with us....we are losers, hippies, slackers, not ambitious enough, overly serious, and more. We are made to feel bad about ourselves for standing outside of the cultural norm.
But while we are outside the shopping mall we discover that there are those like Beverly Maierhofer standing with us as she realizes that she is a "pathetic shopper". An outcast for sure.
But don't despair Beverly redemption is possible.....there is always next year.