Home > Economy > Black Friday- What the Frenzy Says About How We Hurt

Black Friday- What the Frenzy Says About How We Hurt

It has become an annual ritual; people encamped at retail establishments in the dark hours of the early morning, waiting for stores to open the day after Thanksgiving so they can stampede the aisles looking for deals. Some find this tradition a disturbing example of gross materialism. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a symptom of just how horrendously the economy is affecting us.

Washington Post staff writers, Ylan Q. Mui, Dana A. Hedgpeth and Debbi Wilgoren present some pretty poignant reporting on what’s really going on out there. And hats off to them because getting the Black Friday reporting assignment is usually one of the silliest and predictable stories ever.

I was struck by the fact that a lot of folks are not just buying flat-screen TV’s; a lot of them are out looking for some cost relief on basic necessities. A lot of what drives people to the stores on this day is fear. One woman is quoted as saying, “You can’t take anything for granted. I’m not stupid enough to think I couldn’t lose my job tomorrow.”

And there’s this observation from Great Falls, Virginia resident, Teresa Lanz:

The economic downturn is squeezing salaries and forcing layoffs at the construction company where Lanz’s husband works. He will not be getting a raise or bonus this year, Lanz said, and she has already warned her two daughters that it is going to be a lean Christmas season. “Don’t even make a list,” Lanz said she told them. “Hope for the best, and if you get one thing, that’s great.”

These are anecdotes. Here’s the scope: the National Retail Federation says 134 million people are likely to have gone out shopping by this Sunday. In previous healthier years you might make the argument this is just the beginning of the Christmas buying frenzy.

In this holiday season, I’d make the case that the hunt for the deal is not just about purchasing gifts. They’re out there looking to take care of their families. The desperation shown by businesses that would lead them to offer 30 and 40% discounts is matched only by the anxiety people are feeling that the economic foundation is crumbling beneath their feet.

Does this sound like gross materialism to you? It sounds like survival mode to me.

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