I don’t often start my posts with a title, but today I did, and I immediately realized that it’s a misleading title. This is not a post about that guy who’s a creep around the holidays. You know him. He starts wearing the mistletoe hat around, oh, say mid-November and talks a little bit too loudly about the gifts he got for all the women at the holiday party.
As a sidebar, for the love of sandwiches, why do we still have to call this time of year “The Holidays?” Yes, I understand: multiple religions, multiple celebrations, the PC-fun-police basically have to wear diapers to keep from sharknadoing themselves to avoid stepping on anybody’s toes during this sacred time. Yeah, “sacred.” First of all, Christmas is king, anything else is an also-ran (and I’m not saying that as an ardent christian or anything, but look around. Christmas won. Game over). Second, and I’m seriously asking this because I have a hard time believing it–has anybody actually had their sensibilities damaged or their feelings hurt because a stranger in a store wished him a “merry Christmas?” I deplore calling this time of year “the Holidays”, because it feels like hiding under an awning to avoid getting rained on when a tiny wisp of cloud appears in the sky. It’s reactionary in the extreme. For my money, just go around wishing people a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hannukah or a Fantastic Festivus and let them sort it out.
And further sidebar, I know this is the time of year when the religious wingnuts and Fox News especially will start kvelling about the “war on Christmas”. If you’re in that crowd, and you believe a) that there’s a war on Christmas in any way, shape, or form OR b) that if there were a war on Christmas, that Christmas would be in any way diminished by some city hall getting rid of their nativity scene, you’re delusional. Christmas is the Juggernaut and from late October through all of December it goes plowing through the walls of every building in town. Because Christmas isn’t really Christmas anymore, not really. It’s a religious holiday originally, but now it’s a ritual in the only religion that matters in this country: capitalism. ‘Tis the season to run up some credit card debt and stimulate the economy. Just sayin’. I for one can’t wait for all the news reports on how well or how poorly the businesses have done this Black Friday.
Which brings me, circuitously, to the point. I heard a news story earlier this week about a guy who has been camped out at his local Best Buy for a week already in anticipation of the Black Friday deals, but you don’t have to look far to find other examples. It’s epidemic. Somehow, “camping out” in front of a store for hours or even days before it opens has become–not just acceptable (and that’s enough of a Bizarro World scenario to begin with)–but expected if you want to get the best deals, the most ridiculous savings. The guy in question has made a sign where he proudly proclaims his actions, and even invites passersby to take pictures. Presumably, he’s having “fun.”
Far be it from me to decry what another person does for “fun.” But I really have to wonder about the state of your life if you engage in this particular pursuit of happiness. I mean, a simple cost/benefit analysis will tell you that no bargain you could snag by camping out is worth cashing in a vacation day for. Say you make $20 an hour and you want to buy a TV that’s $200 instead of $500. And you camp out for a day. Well, that’s a day of work lost to the tune of almost $200. Plus you have to supply your tent and feed yourself. This guy apparently has pizza delivered, so I’m going to be generous and say that your “camping” consumables are going to run you around $30. So, yeah, okay, you’ve really saved a net of almost $100, but then you also had to sleep outside in the cold. And if you camp out for multiple days, the math only gets worse. So don’t kid yourself about the insane “savings” you get.
Also, as anybody who has gone shopping on Black Friday without camping out knows, stores have limited quantities of their best deals, which means that if you’re not in the first wave of screaming charging mouthbreathers through the front door, you aren’t getting that Playstation 7 for only $300. You’ll arrive in the electronics section to find the empty shelving ripped from the drywall and return to pay full price a week later.
So what’s my point? My point is this. This is not the behavior of a healthy society. Camping out for deals, trampling store employees making minimum wage, breaking into fistfights over awful toys for your children… these are not the actions of well-adjusted individuals, yet they happen every year, and we are not surprised anymore. Think about that. Last year, my wife told me that there was a shooting at some store on Black Friday morning, and I almost yawned while asking, “just one?” And it gets worse every year. The arms race is neverending. Macy’s opens their doors at 7pm on Thanksgiving night, so Sears one-ups them and opens at 6:30. I’ve been seeing ads all week for pre-Thanksgiving “doorbuster” sales, all of which are appended with the admonition to “watch for our Black Friday ads!” So I’m supposed to go shop now, and then go back and shop again on the Superbowl of Shopping.
On Black Friday, I will be safely and cozily snuggled in my bed, dreaming of penguins and safe in the knowledge that I am not part of the evil machine that twists the minds of otherwise rational people during “The Holidays”. In the meantime, I will ignore every ad for Black Friday sales, I will sneer every time I hear the word “doorbuster”, and I will laugh derisively at every picture, news story, or anecdote of some idiot camping outside of any retailer to be the first in line for the savings. Yes, I will pay a little more for my Christmas presents. But I will feel rich in the knowledge that I am not a part of this epidemic.
Because make no mistake. If you go out and shop on Black Friday, or–leftovers help you, Thanksgiving Day– then you are a part of the problem. Even if you just go to “see what the deals are”, you are encouraging these retail vampires to continue their lunatic behavior, to keep pushing the shopping season back earlier in the year. You are endorsing the behavior of the idiots who are out there in tents right now sipping horrible coffee and laughing and pretending they’re having fun. They’re not. And if you think you’re having fun camping outside a store to save money on a TV, you need to take a good hard look inward.
Take a stand. Fight the power. Enjoy your tryptophan coma and sleep in on Black Friday.
Everybody knows the best deals are on Cyber Monday, anyway, and you don’t even have to put on pants to get those.