Those voices are discussing Black Friday, the day where Americans gorge themselves with products the day after they gorge themselves with food.
It’s the year’s busiest shopping day, sending hordes of early risers to bum rush chain stores to purchase gifts for the people they abandoned prematurely on Thanksgiving.
This year, only 36% of shoppers planned to do their holiday shopping on Black Friday itself, with the vast majority preferring to facilitate the movement of goods that will eventually be returned online.
As such, the “holiday” has contaminated surrounding calendar dates like an oil spill, turning one day of savings into an ocean full of shrimp born with coupons on the inside.
Americans are estimated to drop roughly $87 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s the same amount of money President Bush requested to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, highlighting our proud tradition of splurging on things that will eventually break.
And like any good war zone, deals are hard fought. Over the past 12 years, 44 separate Black Friday incidents have resulted in 11 deaths — the equivalent of Matthew Broderick taking five-and-a-half vacations along the Irish coast — and 108 injuries, mostly caused by stampeding crowds, parking lot shootings, and shoppers choking on pleasure from their own savings like David Carradine using a discount belt.
I’m not saying I dislike these shopping events — on the contrary, I bought a jacket. But there’s something that bothers me about the desire to get anything and everything for as cheaply as possible, no matter the cost.
Relatives took off early from my family Thanksgiving, which happens once a year, to head to Walmart, which is open every day. And for the lucky Walmart employees scheduled to work Thanksgiving Day, they don’t even receive holiday pay — instead, they receive 15% off a Walmart purchase on select days in December, bringing an 8oz can of Del Monte tomatoes down from an outrageous .43 cents to a cool .36.
Or take Amazon, where being a Prime member results in two-day Cyber Monday delivery for the low cost of $129 a year, plus 10 serious injuries for every 100 full time workers.
I don’t begrudge anyone for wanting to save a few bucks, but this same low-cost attitude permeates into how we worship the dollar menu, make teachers buy their own glue sticks, and demonize taxes that pay for luxurious extravagances like bridges and pipes.
In a country where it seems like we’re trapped in a neverending race to the bottom, it might be a nice change of pace to see what it’s like to invest in something that’s built to last, like a sports arena, fighter jet, or wall along our porous southern border fortified with a moat filled with alligators and electric eels.