Welcome to the second annual (or maybe longer) edition of “Stop the Madness! aka Black Friday Crazies.”
Every year I am amazed and appalled at the lengths my fellow human beings will go to on Thanksgiving weekend to get sales. To say that it’s become a circus is an understatement.
In the past I’ve written about news coverage of marriage proposals while waiting in line for Black Friday deals in Wisconsin, people camped out overnight outside of stores like it’s a party. And every time I think it can’t get any crazier — it does.
Last year reportedly 40 people were injured while Black Friday shopping and two dozen were pepper sprayed. Whoever would’ve thought years ago that going Christmas shopping could have you ending up in the ER? What about all that “good cheer” we’re supposed to have?
Last year was the first year that many stores opened on Thanksgiving night and I was appalled. I was even more appalled that I found myself outside of Kohl’s at 10 p.m. that night — the necessity of a great deal on an artificial tree and bargains on clothes for the grandkids drew me out despite it being against my principles.
You all know how I feel about having Christmas items in the stores before Halloween. This year they were in the stores on Oct. 1. OCTOBER FIRST. This year, people were camped out outside of stores on MONDAY. Seriously? Three days camped out on a sidewalk to be the first in line for a TV? This year many stores opened even earlier on Thanksgiving — 6 p.m. instead of 8 or 9 p.m.
I was determined I wasn’t going to be sucked into any Thanksgiving night/Black Friday madness this year. But lo and behold, I ran out of Angel’s favorite canned cat food on Thanksgiving Day and being an Angora, she is quite vocal. So I realized that despite all my principles I was going to have to visit a store on Thanksgiving Day.
Out of cat food
I had dinner with my BFF’s family and she said, “Oh, you don’t want to go to Mega Discount Store today.” I told her I had no choice, that Angel would not give me any peace despite the fact there was perfectly good dry cat food in the house.
So around 5:30 p.m. I pull into the parking lot of the superstore and was astonished at the number of cars there. I decided since I had to be at the store anyway, I might as well pick up the groceries I needed for the family dinner on Saturday. There were police officers inside and yellow caution tape everywhere.
My first thought was, “Did someone get killed? Was there an accident?”
The grocery aisles were all blocked off by this caution tape making it hard to purchase the groceries. Finally after three failed attempts I asked an employee, “How do I get to the ground beef?”
“Hmmm,” she replied as she directed me three rows down and around. I went to the dairy aisle to get eggs only to find the cases blocked by cardboard boxes full of DVD’s or video games that lines of people were apparently waiting to attack at a certain time. Shaking my head I again asked a staffer, “Can I get to the eggs?”
I realized that something was about to occur and I didn’t want to be there for it so I abandoned the quest for the rest of our Saturday dinner and headed quickly to the cat food aisle. As I navigated around a woman I said, “Excuse me, I just want to get cat food and get out of here before whatever is about to happen happens.”
The woman asked if I’d ever been there Black Friday shopping and I admitted that I had not.
“Run,” she said. “Run for your life. Go. Now!”
(I am not making this up.) I grabbed the cat food and headed to the checkout where I apologized to the clerk that she had to be working on the holiday and that I didn’t want to be part of the reason and was anxious to leave. She said I was safe until 6 p.m. It was 10 minutes till.
I did go Black Friday shopping at Menards — but not at the crack of dawn. They happened to have two of the things my granddaughter asked for at half off. I figured if they were gone when I got there I wasn’t supposed to have them. I got all of the sale deals I was hoping to get.
I appreciated the note on their sale flier that they considered Thanksgiving a family holiday and as such, were allowing their employees to be with family.
About family, gratitude
So, here’s my issue with the whole Thanksgiving Day store opening thing. It is a family holiday and one for giving thanks to our Lord for our blessings. So many days have been taken away from employees as days off and especially retail employees who will be working their behinds off the next few weeks. Why not allow them that one day of rest before the rush?
I’ve heard the arguments: The guys are watching football or napping, why not go shopping? Not everyone has family nearby or at all and this gives them something to do.
Like our only activity is shopping? A person can’t read a book, peruse a magazine or watch a movie?
If they want the company of others there are places that offer free meals and fellowship.
It’s been reported that there are six less days of Christmas shopping this year. Really? Have the stores been closed until now blocking our ability to shop? What a tragedy. Six less days. It’s not like we spend every day shopping anyway.
My problem is, if I were to buy the arguments for Thanksgiving shopping then why can’t we just savor some family time or quiet time? Why can’t we remain in the prayerful state of gratitude instead of the madness of commercialism, the rush of the crowds that will likely cancel out any warm and fuzzy feelings created earlier that day?
I’ve also heard, especially this year, that people say they have to take advantage of these early sales in order to afford to give their family Christmas gifts. Trust me, I get that.
I need the sales just as much as the next person. But when people are changing dinner plans to accommodate the sales at the stores or when women are leaving the family dinner to make it to the stores, I have to ask — at what price?
If you were to ask anyone to share a favorite Christmas memory, a very high percentage would mention trimming the tree, leaving out cookies for Santa, some family tradition and not a gift that they got under the tree. No matter how much a child or adult may covet and appreciate a certain gift, what they will remember is the presence of their parents, siblings and grandparents — not the presents.
We keep asking, “How far are the stores going to go?” As far as we let them. As long as we keep responding, they’ll keep pushing.
I foresee in the very near future Thanksgiving not as a holiday for family and gratitude but totally a shopping day.
That makes me very sad, indeed.
Denise Fedorow is a correspondent and columnist for The Goshen News. Her column appears every other week.