Though the origin of Black Friday is murky, many believe the phrase was first used by the Philadelphia police force in the late 1950s to describe the traffic jams and crowding of downtown Philly stores by hordes of suburbanites the day after Thanksgiving and the Army/Navy football game. Since then, Black Friday has become a national shopping holiday that lasts well beyond one day; this year, an estimated 116 million people will shop online or in stores on Friday alone.
Like all American traditions, Black Friday elicits lots of feelings. And in 2018, when people have lots of feelings, they take to the internet to bless others with their insights. This is why one of the best ways to understand the complicated shopping “holiday” is to look at the different types of people likely flooding your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds with their Black Friday opinions.
The person who shamelessly waits in line
This person probably posts a photo of themselves in line every year, and while you may not want to join them, you can’t deny that some of the sales look pretty good. (A 40-inch TV for $150? Absolutely.) Dedicated Black Friday shoppers love to post their finds, and while some participate in the holiday out of necessity, others are there for the rush of a deal. Finding things that are usually expensive for a fraction of the cost is fun!
And for some, Black Friday has even won out over Thanksgiving as a family holiday. As one-half of a mother-daughter shopping duo told Goods reporter Rachel Sugar, “This is how we bond. I’ve never been one for Thanksgiving. I don’t like cranberries. I’m not into Thanksgiving food.”
The person who shames Black Friday shoppers
We're at Denny's at 2am and these people have their toddler in here. Look, I'm not into parent shaming, but take your damn kid home and put them to bed. They should not be out because you want to black Friday shop. What the actual F.— Madam Moody Tofu (@Khaleesi_Reeses) November 23, 2018
#BlackFriday sucks and is a sickness of our (over)consumption and eagerness to HAVE. Imagine the peace it brings when you don’t HAVE to buy stuff. And the money you save. And the environment you save. Let’s instead share things and our lives more. Relax it’s Friday!— Sandra Gevaert (@QueenSG) November 23, 2018
This person believes our society is too materialistic, too reliant on things. They will tell you that your family shouldn’t stand in a line outside of Best Buy, but rather sit around a table, passing mashed potatoes and laughing. This sentiment has only increased as Black Friday hours have spilled into Thanksgiving Day; some even call the entire month Black November.
According to a MarketLive study, 65 percent of Americans hate or dislike the trend of retailers opening on Thanksgiving. The looming fear is that Black Friday will soon eclipse Thanksgiving, and that the things Americans claim to hold so dear, like family and tradition, will no longer be.
Even brands are worried. This year, menswear company Noah took one of the more dramatic anti-Black Friday stances, replacing its homepage with a lengthy, all-caps message that reads, “While we’re not trying to say people shouldn’t consume anything, we are saying the current cycle of endless consumption isn’t healthy. We may all be acting like there’s nothing wrong with it, but the fact is plain: we are drowning in stuff.” To be clear, this is a brand that exists solely to sell stuff.
The person shaming the person who shames Black Friday shoppers
Please let’s not expend too much energy shaming people who shop on Black Friday, especially when they couldn’t otherwise afford necessities or Christmas gifts.— Zachary Guiliano (@ZacharyGuiliano) November 23, 2018
I understand criticisms of the day (and have some myself), but let’s remember how bloody hard life can be.
Even though Black Friday has come under scrutiny for encouraging rabid consumerism, a more nuanced look shows that Black Friday is a necessary holiday for shoppers who need to do their Christmas shopping when discounts are high.
“Black Friday shopping isn’t always based in naked, shameless excesses of consumerism,” Kenneth Rogers, the associate dean of research in York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design, told Goods reporter Nadra Nittle. “In very financially troubled times, Black Friday might be people’s only chance to have access to certain things, to buy what they need.”
Not to mention, telling shoppers they shouldn’t value products so highly is a classist position in itself. According to a 2017 study of social class and purchase satisfaction, those in lower socioeconomic classes gain more happiness from material purchases than experiential purchases. By shaming those who want to spend their money on things, you may be shaming those with fewer means.
The person camping on a mountain top
This person is so, so proud of their choice to not participate in our consumerist society. They are nowhere close to a mall, and they want everyone to know it. Of course, the cost of experiences like hiking to the top of a mountain often require expensive gear that indeed must be purchased, but that doesn’t matter. Today these people are not part of the vicious cycle, and it’s important that you know that.
While some may be doing it of their own volition, others have perhaps succumbed to a corporate campaign like REI’s #OptOutside, a marketing tactic that aligns the company with the values that concern its customers while helping to solidify brand loyalty.
REI is just one of many anti-Black Friday brands. Everlane is also not offering Black Friday deals, but instead eliminating one pound of plastic from the ocean for every order it receives today. This anti-Black Friday stance isn’t necessarily to get you to buy less, but to charm you into possibly buying more — not now, but soon, and for many years thereafter.