Yes, here it is, the dreaded Black Friday. It's about 3pm, so the usual madness is long past. For the record, I've spent the entire day at home, and won't be leaving until almost 10, when I have a game to go to. Black Friday sales are not worth the mayhem.
Allow me to wax nostalgic. No more than 10 years ago, Black Friday didn't seem like such a humongous deal. For my mother and I, "getting up early and hitting the sales" meant that we were up at what, 6am, to go wait outside Target. The people who really wanted the bags of free samples and junk would mob the front door. The clever people like us would wait outside the garden department. I can't even remember what the heck we'd buy. We didn't do it very often, being fond of sleep on long weekends.
Nowadays, "getting up early and hitting the sales" means that at midnight, you're camped out hoping that you can get one of those $250 laptops. When the doors finally open, everyone's shoving and being nasty. People get hurt sometimes. The lines to check out stretch through much of the store. All for stuff.
Don't get me wrong. I love holiday presents and good deals as much as the next gal, but I think that the Day After Thanksgiving sales have reached a level of insanity usually reserved for villains in Batman.Honestly. Is it worth getting trampled for a really good deal on a TV?
And then there's the concept of Buy Nothing Day, which suggests that we should not make any purchases today. Meant as a protest against consumerism, it's supposed to send a message to the merchants. All very good and nice, but people who buy holiday presents are going to buy them anyways, whether they buy them today, tomorrow, or already finished their holiday shopping back in March because they're so much more prepared than the rest of us. However wonderful a concept Buy Nothing Day is, the crazy people will always camp out in front of Best Buy, because that's what they do. If they weren't waiting to get a $250 laptop, they'd be hoping to get one of the 12 Playstation 3s in the store.
Don't even get me started on the militant anti-consumerism activists who go so far as to fill store locks with glue to try to prevent people from shopping. I will always believe that turning to violence or vandalism is not the best way to get your point across -- it just makes people think of you as a bad person or organization.
A recent development is the so-called Cyber Monday. Supposedly the on-line equivelant of Black Friday, it seems to really not be all that it's cut out to be.
So what's a socially conscious shopper to do? I believe that rather than focusing on when you shop, you should think about where you shop and what you buy. And while I'm not going to say that you should avoid all large retailers, because there's a few I shop at myself, I do think that one of the best things you can do is shop locally, and/or support small and independent businesses. As much as possible, support artists and those out trying to make it on their own!
I link to a lot of small businesses, indie shops, and artists in my blog. If you search past posts, you can find a lot of great things. You can also seek out your own new and exciting shopping spots! You can check eBay or Etsy for listings by artists in a variety of mediums, or small businesses which do their selling through auctions. Shopping blogs are a great spot, too. Check out Rare Bird Finds; Indie Fixx; Artisans, Artists, and Anything Indie. Explore the Links pages of your favorite artists and small shops. Click through some ads on Indie sites. Or ask your friends about their favorite shopping spots.
During the holiday season and beyond, it's important to support small businesses and artists however you can. And of course, as an added bonus, you find gifts far more unique than anything in the department stores. Happy shopping!