Conscientious consumers should reconsider Black Friday

Grace Palmer, Opinions Editor

Black Friday may have the best deals, but it also seems to bring out the worst in people. From a fatal shootout in a Toys-R-Us in 2006 to a Walmart stock boy being trampled to death by a crowd of shoppers in 2008, there are countless stories of unwarranted violence. The website Black Friday Death Count charts 7 deaths and 90 injuries, statistics that would have any other “marketing strategy” banned.  Besides the obvious injuries to consumers, there’s also the workers to consider. Employees reported being required to work 20 hour shifts, or risk losing their jobs. Even if the boasted “incredible deals” help individual consumers, Black Friday should be considered as an ethical problem – is it okay to endanger lives for a good deal?

Black Friday may not even be that profitable for stores. While it is marketed as the biggest shopping day of the year, that honor actually belongs to the Saturday before Christmas, thanks to procrastinators. While reporters Mary Jane Credeur and Kelly Riddell say that Black Friday has a high dollar yield, bringing in between 4.5 and 5 percent of all holiday sales, some countries with no “start date” for holiday shopping such as the Netherlands actually spend more over the course of the season. Moreover, surveys done by researchers at Indiana University showed that, while hoards of people go Black Friday shopping, there is a consistently low rate of purchase. Higher percentages of shoppers actually bought items the following day. It seems to me that it might be better for stores to have these humongous sales when everyone else isn’t having one, so they don’t have to contend with other stores, undercut their competitors, and reduce their own profits.

With all these factors in play, it seems like Black Friday should be slowing down. However, in some ways it actually seems to have amped up this year. Many stores open their doors in the evening on Thanksgiving day. This has traditionally been a day when one would take time to be thankful for what they have and time with their family, not line up at 5 am to punch someone in the face for a 50 percent off sweater. Also, the most common discount increased from 40 to 50 percent off the marked price this year, according to Citigroup analysts. Overall, sales on Black Friday totaled nearly two billion dollars.

While retailers have stepped up their Black Friday efforts, it seems as if counter movements are gaining steam as well. Patagonia, a winter gear company, used #AntiBlackFriday when encouraging people to mend their old Patagonia merchandise rather than purchasing new things. People across America took part in Buy Nothing Day (BND) on Friday, an international protest against consumerism created by Vancouver based artist Ted Dave. Events for BND included sit ins, credit card cutting up stations in malls, and “zombie walks” in which participants wander through malls with blank stares, imitating consumers. Here in Minnesota, 26 St. Paul Walmart employees were arrested in a protest against low wages.

I, for one, applaud these efforts. Not all of so-called “consumer culture” cannot be condemned, and there is certainly nothing wrong with buying Christmas presents. However having a day specifically dedicated to all out extreme consumerism is not only distasteful, but also clearly dangerous. Safety, even lives, should not be sacrificed for “incredible deals on the hottest tech tools,” nor should doorbusters take precedent over consideration of other people. Black Friday is pointless at best, and fatal at worst. It is the responsibility of conscientious consumers to think about their fellow humans, rather than bargains.