Seasonal & Holiday

A Culture of Consumerism?

Black Friday is widely criticized for what it says about American culture–that at worst, Americans materialistic debt-hoarders with a limited sense of values.



Over the last ten years or so, Black Friday has become something of an American tradition. Some would argue that it’s less about the download (2)shopping and more about the “experience” of getting up in the wee hours, to beat other consumers out of the best prices, even if it means waiting in line outside in November for hours, or even all night. Sounds like fun, right? And as of the last few years, retailers are pulling their employees away from their Thanksgiving family meals to work.

This year, many retailers have vowed to close their doors on Thanksgiving, refusing to kowtow to consumers and profit. Some are even using it as (arguably) a marketing tool, in which they are closed as a form of protest on behalf of their employees.  Likewise, in response, many shoppers are posting pledges not to shop on Thanksgiving Day, in protest of rampant consumerism that they  believe are now eclipsing family values.

Some of the biggies that have announced that they are CLOSED on the big day are: Apple (perhaps the biggest surprise), BJs, Costco, TJX stores, Home Depot, and Nordstrom. Interestingly, there is an argument to be made that some of the stores mentioned have clientele with a generally higher income than Wal-mart, for example. Black Friday has come to be known as a “middle class” tradition by some critics–these stores may be responding to that. It may actually be more beneficial to their image to be closed. Conversely, studies show that 40% of Walmart shoppers have an income of under $35k. 

The flip side of this conversation is that Black Friday is less about the penny pinching and more about the competitive sport of bargain hunting. The sweet knowledge that you got the best deal you could is worth bitter temperatures and stampeding shoppers.It’s a rush.

And for those of us not cooking turkeys, it may be the simple element of time. Weekends in December are jammed with parties, cookie-swaps and friendly holiday get togethers. But this week, you have two days off! When was the last time you had time on a Thursday afternoon to go shopping?!

So, is it the need to save money, the neo family shopping tradition, or the simple lack of time that fosters the madness that is Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping? Or, if we look hard enough, are we simply a product of well-organized marketing campaigns that begin in October? You decide.