Black Friday abuses workers and isn’t even fun


Written By Lauren Ortego, Copy Editor

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, millions of Americans set out to take advantage of some of the cheapest deals of the entire year on a holiday whose name strikes fear into the hearts of the weak.

Black Friday – it’s the day we get to shove our fellow Americans for questionable reasons just hours after sitting around a table with our families giving thanks for everything we have. It’s like the Hunger Games, but with more capitalism and a bit less death.

Everyone knows someone who actually enjoys and looks forward to this “holiday.” The dedicated prepare their maps of stores weeks in advance and wake up at 3 a.m. Friday morning and set out on a mission. Depending on how close you are to them, you may end up getting dragged along.

Or maybe you aren’t dragged. Maybe you’re one of them, and you revel in the power you feel when you snatch the last iPad mini from someone else’s cold, slow hands.

Either way, I found it kind of odd that we have a specific day of the year where half the country finds it either too dangerous to go shopping, or even go outside, and the other half don bulletproof vests just to buy a $40 flat screen.

So, how did this holiday start and, for the love of God, why?

After the creation of the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving became considered to be the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Retailers began to realize that they could pull huge crowds by discounting prices on that day and voilà, Black Friday was born.

The source of the term itself unclear, but according to a 1994 article from the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Philadelphia Police Department used the term in the 1960s to describe the worst and most violent traffic jams, which always occurred the Friday after Thanksgiving. A reporter at the time, Joseph P. Barrett, took part in popularizing the police term, which led to its now-nationwide usage.

There’s always been controversy surrounding Black Friday, and it’s easy to see why, at least for non-fans like myself.

The first problem with it is that it starts earlier each year. Many stores this year even began the deals on the Thanksgiving night, which has old people on Facebook in a rage. (But then again, what doesn’t?) Black Friday protest organizers who spoke to the New York Times cited the holiday as “a striking example of how retailers disrupt a beloved family holiday for profit.”

The backlash that stores have received for opening early has struck such a chord with retailers that the Mall of America had only three of its 520 stores open for early shopping, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

First, if I so much as thought about ditching my grandma’s house to go shopping, I’d probably be cursed with guilt that would presumably follow me for the rest of my life, and that’s not something I’m willing to risk.

The second problem is that there is no way anyone is dragging me out of bed at an ungodly hour (after what is possibly the biggest meal I have eaten all year) to go stand in the cold, in a line that probably stretches the whole way around the mall, only to get trampled as soon as the doors open. It’s just not worth it.

The third problem is the treatment of workers on the dreaded day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 16 million retail workers in America. Many of them worked long hours from late Thursday into Black Friday night for a check that is most likely way below a living wage.

Imagine what it’s like spending 14-plus hours dealing with customers fighting each other, and you, on the prices of various items, and then imagine what that would be like on Black Friday.

I feel bad about it, but I went Black Friday shopping once. It was an accident.

We were driving home from my grandma’s house after a lot of turkey, stuffing and uncomfortable conversations about where I’m going in life when we spotted a line outside of K-Mart. We decided to check it out and remembered it was probably for early Black Friday deals. Since no one in my immediate family had ever participated, we made the choice to wait in line.

I’ll admit that it wasn’t that bad but it definitely wasn’t “fun.” I do sort of wish something crazy had happened, like a person getting sucker punched over a cell phone or a soccer mom kicking me in the shin for the last throw pillow, but sadly that was not the case. Instead, I walked in with the rest of the crowd, which was pretty calm, bought a cheap pair of shoes and left.

As it stands, Black Friday is an unfortunate, grisly reminder of our capitalist society, where the means of production are privately owned and producers compete to maximize their profits.

Besides, Cyber Monday is so much better.