I wasn’t out shopping when stores opened for “Black Friday” sales Thursday evening, and I won’t be shopping Friday. I’m uncomfortable with the out-of-control consumerism of our culture — which I’ve written about before — but I don’t care if that’s what you want. The choices you make about material things reflect your values, not mine.
There seem to be increasingly sharp battle lines between those who want to tell you when you should be allowed to shop and those who are eager to get the best deals available. Many people have been angry for a long time that so many people turn the day after Thanksgiving into an orgy of commercialism, but they’re really upset now that stores are opening earlier and earlier — bringing opening times all the way up to 8 p.m. Thursday at Walmart and 9 p.m. at Target. Other stores are opening at similarly early times.
For millions of people, this is a good thing. They wouldn’t line up as they do if they didn’t want to shop. And the random Thanksgiving night shoppers I talked to were thrilled. They said they had long been accustomed to getting up very early Friday morning, and they appreciated being able to do the same shopping Thursday night instead. The folks I talked with at the Target near my house Thursday night seemed like very happy customers.
So why are so many people offended that shoppers are spending their time and money on Thursday night instead of Friday? Why are they so upset that they’re launching campaigns to ask people to pledge not to shop on Thursday?
However you spin it, the campaigns against Thursday night shopping comes down to one simple fact. Most people are eager to convince — or even force — other people to make the same choices they make.
I believe that your choices say a lot about your values. If you’re out there participating in the consumer orgy — whether it’s Thursday night or Friday or some other random day — you’re saying a lot about what you value. But that’s your business, not mine. If you think buying a big television (or whatever) is a big deal — whether you pay the normal lowest price or the special loss-leader Black Friday price — that says a lot about what you and your family think is important. If you show up at a store at a special hour because you can buy your child a bicycle that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford, that also says something about what’s important to you. Most examples are somewhere between those, but whatever you’re buying, what you do with your money reflects what you think is important.
We live in a society that values “stuff.” More and more, I don’t value very much stuff. More and more, I want to own less and less. (This has been a long-term trend for me, and it’s something I’ll probably write about again soon.)
But I can’t make the decision for anyone else where to draw the line. Is it too much to fill every room of your house with televisions and DVRs and fancy furniture that you borrowed money to buy? I’d say it’s way too much. But some people might say it’s too much for me to simply own an iPhone 5 and a MacBook Air. To me, they’re very defensible — especially considering they’re about the only things of value I own these days — but to others they would seem like luxuries. I can’t make the decision for you. You can’t make it for me.
What about the argument that you shouldn’t shop on Thursday because “everyone deserves a holiday”? Where is the logic in that assertion? Why does someone magically “deserve” to have that day off? Have you been protesting movie theaters that have been open for decades? Have you launched campaigns to shut down Waffle House and the other random restaurants and gas stations that serve customers on those days? Employees of those stores can decide whether it’s worth it to work on that day. They don’t need you weighing in on their decision.
Look, I understand if you’re offended about people spending money like drunken sailors on things they can’t afford. I think our society’s values about material things are out of whack. But it’s not my business. It’s not my money. It’s not my time. It’s not my values.
It’s time for all of us to quit worrying so much about what others are doing with their time and money, whether it’s Thanksgiving or any other day of the year. It’s not our business.