Black Friday

/ 28 November 2008

In Vienna we buy groceries almost daily. Small batches, a day or so’s food at a time. We carry it home on foot or in the bus or streetcar. If we need something bigger, like stuff from Ikea, we take a few hands along. Larger items, mattresses or refrigerators, we have delivered. We plan ahead a bit for Sundays and holidays, since most stores will be closed. In this context black Friday seems like a bizarre sport of a perplexing culture. What’s the rush? Why ruin a holiday? Who needs to fill an SUV with stuff, even cheap stuff.

So it was with even greater sadness than I would usually have felt that I encountered this sliver of my culture, passed along by Rob at Extraordinary Observations:

Only on Black Friday are we not only given the opportunity, but also in some ways expected, to act this way. Why do retail stores need to open at 4am? Why do they encourage people to line up outside all night to run through the store like rats when the doors open? Does this tradition really boost a store’s profits by that much?

Granted, this is an extreme case. But it begs the question. What makes “consumerism” a good thing? This is the other side of the financial collapse. How can we have a compassionate, considerate capitalism. Is such a thing possible.

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