A $5.00 Black Friday Toaster Is Not The Deal You Think It Is

Black Friday deals are an illusion perpetuated by a retail industry who believes they hold the reins when it comes to the American holiday shopper.  But a $5.00 toaster bought at 6:00 AM is not the deal you think it is.

But let me back up…

I’m a romantic. I am. Underneath all this sarcasm and cynicism there is a girl who loves the romance of life. Yes, hold on to your hats. I am about to get all mushy on you.

Despite my tough-ish exterior I am a sucker for romance, especially the romance of the holiday season. I can’t get enough. When the calendar hits November 1st I click on my iTunes holiday playlist and we are good to go for weeks. The music  is evocative and conjures up warm memories and fantastical holiday images of sleigh rides, warm cocoa, and carolers going door to door.

I really do have this whole Dickens Christmas fantasy in my head.  The food, the cookies, the music, the decorations, the candles, the traditions, Santa, the reindeer. I love it all. I even love the shopping. The fun of finding the unexpected gift that magically completes your list. The surprising little stocking stuffers. The making lists and checking them twice. What’s not to love.

What I don’t love is standing in line in the cold at 4:00 AM to get a “deal”, so I don’t do that.

You’ll never see me stressed out over shopping during the holiday season. And that’s not because I start early (I don’t) or am one of those people who shop all year round (I’m not).  And it’s not because I have unlimited funds (I wish). I only shop for the holidays sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I do it with a smile. I meander. I check out the holiday lights. I stop for cocoa. I listen to the mall choirs and watch the kids meet Santa. I visit local small businesses. I even partake in the big box stores sales. But I don’t stress. For me gift giving is simply part of the holiday romance, not a by-product.

So…and here is the part where I rant and call for action…so when Black Fridaymorphed into Depressingly Grey Thursday (AKA Thanksgiving) I went a little  crazy, like a reindeer on chocolate espresso.

Whose brilliant misguided idea was this? They clearly have coal for a soul and I will not be saving them a piece of pumpkin pie.

Over the last decade shopping on the day after Thanksgiving has become a full-on contact sport requiring action plans, sturdy shoes, extra water bottles, and a good insurance policy since your very life is at stake (Wal-Mart worker trampled to death by frenzied Black Friday shoppers). For many, hell bent on being the first in line for that "deal", shopping has turned into their primary holiday tradition. What happy memories they will have when they look back:“Dearie, remember Thanksgiving of 2011? I tripped over that stroller to get that $5.00 toaster doorbuster. I broke my toe but it was so worth it. Good times. Good times. I like toast.”  (How many of those doorbuster purchases do you think are actually gifts?)  

I’d like to tell you I’m not judging you Grey Thursday/Black Fridayshoppers, but that would a lie. I judge you. I don’t judge you right away, of course. I judge you after I wake up on the day after Thanksgiving from a long night’s sleep and after I have enjoyed our family’s traditional day after Thanksgiving sweet potato-pecan honey butter pancake breakfast and after we’ve gone for a lovely walk. Only then do I remember some of you have been shopping since the night before and that’s when I judge you. (It’s possible I am pre-judging you now).

I don’t understand why we have allowed this to happen. What have we gained?

Or more importantly, what have we lost?

By convincing us, the shoppers, that our holidays will be incomplete and our wishes unfulfilled if we don’t get that deal at all costs we have allowed the retail industry to define the parameters of our holiday happiness. Our holiday schedules have become dictated by Target and Wal-Mart, and not Aunt Mary’s invitation. Our wish lists have become homogenized. Where once we embraced the joy of finding and giving the perfect gift we now stress about return policies and getting a bargain. We gamble with our time thinking we are saving money but all we are really doing is sacrificing family time and the romance of the season.

You can’t get that back.

Holiday shopping can be done, and done on a budget, without surrendering to the retail machine or bending our lives to their ridiculous holiday store hours and manufactured “doorbuster” sales that are about as real as flying reindeer (no business can survive on a deficit so you’re not getting away with the deal you think you are).

They can’t sell what we won’t buy and I am encouraging all of you NOT to buy into the idea that holiday shopping should be a cutthroat, miserable, and inevitable experience. Believe me, if we don’t go shopping on Thanksgiving Day or at 5:00 AM on Black Friday they will simply move the deals to Saturday. They NEED us. Stop letting them make you think you NEED them.

If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for employees of those companies. Those employees are working for hourly wages and have no control over their own schedules.  Because we have agreed to shop earlier and earlier those families will no longer be able to go over the hill and through the woods to grandmother’s house for the Thanksgiving holiday because they have to be back at work by the time you are sitting down for your turkey dinner.

We have the power. I say choose romance. Choose to believe in the magic of the season.  Choose family over the $5.00 toaster.

Build real memories. The shopping can wait.

~~
K.M. (Kelly) O’Sullivan is a writer, blogger, and unapologetic feminist mother living in the Midwest with her husband, their three boys, and the cats. Kelly writes about parenting, politics, feminism, body image, and more. Read more from Kelly at www.kmosullivan.com and connect with her on Facebook (www.fb.com/SlightlyAskewWoman) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KellyMOSullivan).

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