“Black Friday” has become a phenomenon which almost dwarfs Thanksgiving to the minds of many bargain-minded consumers. Instead of spending a peaceful day at home on Thanksgiving, then sleeping off the big meal the next day at home, many spend the night camped out in mall and department store parking lots so they can crash the gates on Black Friday and get the best deals before they’re gone. This marketing frenzy may be great for retailers and big consumer corporations, but is it good for our culture and for society? Or is it taking greed and over-consumption too far? One may begin to believe the latter after hearing news stories about families camped outside of Best Buy stores for over a week so they can be the first through the door on Friday morning. Is losing a week of one’s life worth saving a few hundred dollars on a flat screen TV or computer system?
Many people fed up with how consumerism has taken over the entire holiday season have chosen to celebrate “Buy Nothing Day” instead, a movement which is growing in enthusiasm and participation every year. Buy Nothing Day is exactly what it sounds like: a day when we, as consumers, are challenged to buy absolutely nothing for one entire day. Buy Nothing Day can take place any day a person chooses to decree it, but since 1997 it has been internationally organized to take place on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, and the following Saturday elsewhere. This scheduling drives home the message of rebellion against greed and consumption, asking participants not to buy a thing for a full 24 hours.
To take it to its full extent, people are also asked on Buy Nothing Day to think not just of consumer spending but how else they are spending money every day. Besides avoiding the shopping malls and department stores for the day, can you skip that Starbucks coffee on the way to work? Ride your bike instead of having to fill up the tank with gas? Spend time at home talking with family members instead of spending on going out to the movie theater?
Beyond even these issues, ask yourself how much is your electric, gas, cable and cell phone costing you per day? How much interest is accruing on your credit card for every day you carry a revolving balance? Could you genuinely function, for just one day in this modern world, without paying anyone a single penny? For most of us, the answer is no, and Buy Nothing Day organizers do not necessarily expect everyone to turn off their utilities entirely for a day and sit in the cold and dark. But the day can be used for reflection overall on how much money we spend every minute of our lives, on every little thing, and question which expenditures are really worthwhile or not.
There are many critics of Buy Nothing Day who find it at least as problematic – if not more so – than Black Friday. Some point out that by its nature, Buy Nothing Day is elitist and classist. By making a fuss over the “choice” or “luxury” of not buying anything for one day, supporters are ignoring the poor and underprivileged who do not have the funds to buy even their necessities without aid or assistance. Others argue that they go shopping on Black Friday not to buy frivolous holiday gifts but to get the best prices on items they need for their family, job or career, such as children’s clothing, business wear, or computer equipment. Some small business owners complain that by targeting all retail and consumer businesses, instead of just the large corporate chains like Walmart, the Buy Nothing Day campaign hurts those who are not even participating in Black Friday sales, such as gas station owners, restauranteurs, and others.
Another criticism of Buy Nothing Day is that many employees in large stores do not want to lose a day of work by having stores closed on Black Friday. Protesting the stores and pressuring them to close for the day would impact these employees’ paying hours when they desperately need the money most. Of course, the counter-argument to this last point is, if we did not live in such a consumer-driven society, working those eight hours at or near minimum wage might not be such a necessity for meeting all our monthly bills.
For 2010, there are numerous events and protests being planned for Buy Nothing Day throughout the world. The #BND2010 hashtag is being used on Twitter to discuss potential gatherings, as is the Buy Nothing Day 2010 Facebook event page. Buy Nothing Day events include protesting outside chain and department stores, postering public spaces, disrupting shopping traffic or simply spreading the word.
Of course, everyone can celebrate Buy Nothing Day in their own way…by simply buying nothing! It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. This coming weekend, where will you be: fighting through the crowds to save those few dollars on the latest electronic gizmo or hot Christmas toy, or at home being thankful for the things that you already have? I challenge you to consider your options.
* Buy Nothing Day – adbusters.org.
* Buy Nothing Day 2010 Facebook event page.
* Buy Nothing Day – Wikipedia.
* “Florida Couple Already Camping Out For Black Friday At Best Buy.” The Consumerist, November 19, 2010.