Arnie.120513

by Pete Mazzaccaro

I trust that if you’re reading these words you’ve survived Black Friday. Our annual post-Thanksgiving shop-a-thon has become the subject of pretty grim jokes, these days, as annual tallies of deaths and injuries are inevitably reported on the evening news.

A website called blackfridaydeathcount.com has also garnered a lot of coverage for monitoring deaths and injuries. This year, only one person died, but many were injured, including two shoppers who were stabbed and three who were shot, according to the site. These people were injured in fights over parking spaces and merchandise.

I’m not sure there’s a positive way to view the increasing violence caused by this annual shopping frenzy that seems to have begun around 2008, the first time a death was attributed to Black Friday shopping, according to a recent article in US News and World Report. It’s also puzzling that most of us continue to condone it by ignoring the problem. It’s easy to dismiss Black Friday shoppers as people who are taking risks, know what they’re getting into and get what they deserve, perhaps, if they are injured.

But do we really need to live with a season of injuries related to shopping? Is it really worth risking bodily harm for a flat-screen TV? Or $100 off a laptop?

I’m confident that there are more injuries on other holidays – perhaps on the Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day or even Memorial Day. But now there is a keen focus on the phenomenon of Black Friday and related injuries. A day of 10 or so injuries and a fatality, however, is just another day in America. Nothing that extraordinary, really.

And honestly, what could you do about it? Some states have taken to banning the opening of big-box retail stores on Thanksgiving Day, into which Black Friday sales have crept. This year we have, as a culture, coined the term “Gray Thursday” to describe the forward creep of holiday sales. But could you really foresee a ban on Black Friday? Even if such a law could ever pass muster, retailers would simply move the day to the following Friday or Saturday, and the same thing would happen.

There’s probably no way to come back from where we’ve gone when it comes to buying really cheap things in big-box stores. And no matter how plainly silly it is to wait for hours in the cold simply to save $100, there’s no shortage of people who can rationalize that behavior. Apparently their time over the holidays isn’t that valuable.

This is the natural place in this piece to make a pitch for shopping local. Shopping in Chestnut Hill can keep you far away from the crowded malls and big-box retailers and away from fist fights over parking spaces (we would hope). You might not get the same blockbuster deals, but you get good service and a nice neighborhood stroll between shops. It’s a pitch we’ve all heard before.

I think more important than that is shopping locally for the holidays as a way, not just to protest the excess of the big box store, but to spend your gift budget in a way that is a small investment in your own community. Dollars spent here keep local shops open and pay local people. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

So do your part and say no to big-box stores, even if it’s just for one day or one shopping trip. There’s no way it will cure us of the Black Friday blues, but it’s a good start.

...