Black Friday, Cheap Chinese goods and the future of America

Nov 30

I am ashamed to admit that I participated in this past week’s Black Friday ritual, not because I wanted to but because my children asked me to.  I think this possibly makes me a bad parent except that we discussed what we learned from the experience and perhaps that will change their perspectives for the future.

We are a consumer driven society.  Last night on ABC News they said that the US Economy is over 2/3 retail sales.  I wonder what the economy was based upon before it became so focused on the acquisition of “stuff”.   I find it a little more than disconcerting that we are hoping to return to this purchasing frenzied economic model to restore our nation to prosperity.  I hope that there is some other model that will get us there. What’s so discouraging about all this buying of things we don’t really need?  Well plenty of things:

  1. The intrusion into the time that’s supposed to be spent with friends and family relaxing and enjoying each others company
  2. The messages we are sending children and adults with branding and advertising that tell them if they just wear these clothes, drive this car, eat this food they’ll be “cool-sexy-sought after-famous”.  Constantly reinforcing the empty need for the acquisition on more, more, more.
  3. Media reinforcement that finding a deal is some kind of primal race that we need to win.
  4. Filling up our houses with things instead of memories, gadgets that remove us further from each other instead of bring us closer together.

Black Friday is no longer Black Friday, it started on Thanksgiving this year with many stores open on Thanksgiving Day.  I was cooking and spending time with family and friends that day but many people didn’t get the choice to do that because they had to work.  I really appreciated Nordstrom who posted a note on their store saying that they were home enjoying the holiday with family.  Best Buy opened at Midnight instead of their regular 5am Friday.  This is where I took my kids, looking for deals on DVD’s to give as Christmas gifts.  We arrived around 11:45 to a line clear around the building.  There was an RV in the parking lot where it was obvious someone had spent their Thanksgiving Day parked and dining in the Best Buy lot.  At first, I told the kids I wasn’t going to stay.  It seemed to me that the line included far more people than the fire marshall would have allowed to be in the building.  There wasn’t anybody counting though and they let every last one of them through the door by 12:10.  We were just going to watch the chaos of people going in and then leave.  What we saw was some bad behavior on the part of people breaking in line and the police officer watching the door doing nothing about it.  It was clear to me at that point how these things can easily get out of hand.  Fortunately everyone remained calm, perhaps because they were too tired and appear more like zombies than real people.    We made our way in and started scouring the DVD’s picking up 3 we thought were on special.  I got one of Jack’s gifts for his Xbox on sale ($20 off) and a blue ray player for $69 that I wasn’t really looking to buy but seemed like a good deal.  Then we tried to pay.  They said there were 22 cashiers but there were really on 5 cashiers for most products.  Only special computer or large hardware purchases got you in to one of the shorter lines.  We waited in line for over an hour.  Mary Mac and Caitlin went to the car and tried to sleep while Jack and David and I waited in line.  It moved at a snails pace and people were cutting in line.  When I translated out what I saved into a per hour amount it was clearly not worth staying up late and being a part of this nut house.   But others were obviously caught up and overjoyed at the entire process.  Don’t we have more meaningful things to do in our lives than this?  At checkout, by the way, 2 of the 3 DVD’s it turns out were not on sale.  We discussed all the bad things about this experience on the way home.  I hope the kids weren’t too tired to absorb some of it.

I slogged home and went to bed only to rise again at 8:30am and head out to the mall just after 9.    I was a zombie and didn’t really feel like shopping but the kids had a few things they specifically wanted to get because they were on special.  The line to get coffee at Starbucks was clear out in the mall foyer.   We opted to avoid that!  In the end, the specials are never what they seem and it all seems a bit silly.  These stores have better sales throughout the year in my opinion.  Often you get to the counter and they tell you have to buy something else to get the special and you end up buying something else you didn’t want in the first place.  I learned on the news last night that most retailers operate in the RED all year until the last quarter.  What kind of business model is that?  If you were in business for yourself you probably would find something else to do.  I left the mall thoroughly disenchanted with just a couple of small bags.  I am not sure when I will go back to finish my shopping since the whole thing kind of repulses me now.  Especially when every tag I turn over says it was “made in China”.   We’ve got to stop this nonsense.

Arriving back home, I was too tired to make the trek out to get our Christmas tree so I turned on the news.  The typical stories of mayhem at the malls and big box stores were the lead.  This year’s headliner was the lady who sprayed pepper spray in order to get other shoppers out of her way.  Come on.  What is this world coming to?  This is our last best hope for saving America?  These people are sick.  If we have to rely on a bunch of crazy shoppers buying things they don’t need to be the leading economy in the world, we are in trouble.  That is going down a path to nowhere.  We need an economy that is based on something more substantial than the acquisition of more junk.  Let’s start to re-imagine something better.

Tonight on ABC they are continuing their Made in America series.  At least, if you’ve got to buy something, get it from someone local.  Support your local economy. Find a local artist or craftsman and buy a Christmas gift from them.  Shop in the local stores in your area instead of the Big Box retailers.  Send flowers from your local florist.  Look for boutiques and shops that support local artisans.  Contact vendors from your local farmer’s markets (closed for the winter) and see what they’ve got for sale.  If you don’t have their cards from the summer check with your Chamber of Commerce and see if they have a list of the summer vendors.  Think local, buy local.  If you need a book and you usually buy from Amazon, think about going to a local independent bookseller, if there is one left in your area.  In downtown Parker, there is Poor Richard’s New and Used books or the Denver area has the Tattered Cover, one of the best independent bookstores in the country.  If you are in a Big Box store shopping, at least ask them what they have that is made in America.

Stop the crazy frenzy of buying cheap Chinese goods that you don’t need and giving them as gifts to people who don’t need them either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *