Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 23, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Features Black Friday: Capitalism’s day of unfeeling gluttony

Black Friday: Capitalism’s day of unfeeling gluttony

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To say I’m not a fan of Black Friday is something of an understatement. As a concept it makes a lot more sense in America: when our chums across the Atlantic have finished Giving Thanks by gorging themselves silly on pumpkin pie and exhausting all avenues of forced conversation with distant relatives, it’s understandable that any excuse to leave the house the following day is jumped upon. And what better way is there, really, to relieve pent up stress than by queuing (sorry, ‘waiting in line’) for 33 hours to get your mitts on a half price juicer?

Come on, Britain. What’s our excuse for adopting this day of relentless consumerism? We already have Boxing Day! Yes, Black Friday is conveniently placed a month before Christmas, but is there really any sweeter feeling than smugly strolling into Topshop on Boxing Day with a voucher from your granny? And since when did we place so much importance on finding the perfect Christmas present? Does your mum stop loving you if you don’t get her an iPad – is that how it works now?

So how and when did Black Friday leap across the pond? Amazon have taken official credit for introducing it in 2010, but there were stirrings on Oxford Street as many as ten years ago. Since then, it seems to have been a combination of word of mouth and a general expectation that it’ll happen again that’s popularised the discount day. It’s estimated that this year British shoppers will spend about £2.6bn snapping up Black Friday deals (it’s no wonder that last year Debenhams handed out ‘survival kits’ to their staff to deal with the imminent onslaught of rabid bargain hunters).

‘the promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor ecological space exists.’

With a closer look, though, lots of these ‘deals’ aren’t so much ‘deals’ as ‘ramping-prices-up-then-reducing-them-back-to-normal-so-people-think-they’re-saving-money-on-deals-deals’. The consumer group Which? observed that 60% of items it tracked were cheaper or the same price on other days of the year. ‘Dynamic pricing’ is nothing new; it’s why Uber charges more late at night, or the more you view a certain EasyJet flight, the pricier it gets. So we’re often not actually saving ourselves all that many pennies.

Not only is it often fairly cost-inefficient, but Black Friday is viewed by many as problematic both morally and environmentally. In America, the day known as ‘Black Friday’ is also Native American Heritage Day. Activist Robin Young recently commented that ‘Native American Heritage Day should be when the nation takes time to recognise our contributions, our sacrifices, what happened to indigenous people, what’s still happening to indigenous people. Instead it falls on Black Friday, a day of excess, gluttony, greed and aggressive capitalism… our values as indigenous people are not materialistic. Look at what happened at Standing Rock, we say honour the water, the earth and the people.’ Young argues that Thanksgiving should be known as ‘Un-Thanksgiving’, as it glosses over the murder and mutilation of Native Americans.

Environmental and political writer George Monbiot bemoaned the rise of Black Friday: ‘We are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists’. Even to the most die-hard shopper, Monbiot’s argument is pretty watertight. Can anyone, hand on their heart, say that their Black Friday purchases are of the essential variety? At the time of writing, a tweet by homeware giant B&M offering a chance to win a ‘multipan’ had over 2,000 retweets. I guarantee you that once you’ve instagrammed your multipan, it’ll be gathering dust with the juicer at the back of the cupboard.

So this Black Friday, why don’t we all save ourselves the sweaty, anxiety inducing trek around the shops and help our planet by remembering that it’s the thought – not the cut-price multipan – that counts?

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