Today is Black Friday. Shopping malls and major retailers across the U.S. have deals to incite a holiday shopping frenzy. Thanksgiving, a day meant for family and reflection, becomes a memory as we head into the frigid night air to stand in line and fight crowds to get a $200 LED television or a $50 blu-ray player.
Is that what all the excitement is about? Is it a competitive drive to be first, to get the best deals? And is it worth taking part in denying low-wage workers the opportunity to have a day with friends or family? Or worse, being part of the mayhem that is responsible for taking a life, just to save a few dollars?
In 2008, a Walmart worker was trampled to death at a Long Island, NY store, and two men shot each other to death in California. In 2011, shoppers walked over a man who had the audacity to lay dying in an aisle in Target, and in Los Angeles, a woman pepper sprayed other shoppers. Stores in Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and several other locations reported fights, as well. Last year was no different, with stabbings, shootings, and a myriad of fights.
This does not seem to faze the investors or CEO’s; stores are opening earlier than ever this year, drawing underpaid workers away from a family holiday that is sacred to many. In an effort to increase profits for those who least need them, many large retailers are opening as early 5 or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and a few are open as early as Thanksgiving morning.
Still, the allure of excitement and energy around Black Friday shopping can be contagious. If you find that is the case, consider shopping at a locally owned business. While the specific numbers may vary, there is no question that shopping at a locally owned business is good for your community. Some estimates suggests that nearly 70% of each dollar spent at a local business stays in the local economy. By contrast, only 40% or less of each dollar spent at non-local businesses remains in the local economy. It is also more likely that your local shopkeeper will offer direct benefits to his or her community.
And for those who find this consumerism generally disconcerting, there is the Buy Nothing Winter Coat Exchange at the Rhode Island State House. Events like this help our neighbors, help our environment (by not making more stuff and not filling landfills with old stuff), and are representative of what this season is supposed to be about: kindness, thoughtfulness, and caring.