When you really think about it, it is pretty sick that retail employees (especially those at the big box discount retailers who are frequently making that incredibly low minimum wage) are the ones expected to give up their time with friends and families to work during stressful, frenetic, and often dangerous conditions.
Recently, I saw a post circulating Tumblr (which I can't locate for the life of me right now) that showed people lined up/camping out for deals and said something to the effect, "If you do this, you are part of the problem." I couldn't agree more...if you believe in fair wages and the ethical treatment of workers, then you cannot patronize these stores/sales. When you purchase items at incredibly low rates, that has a direct impact on other people. Someone, somewhere isn't receiving a fair wage and/or benefits because you needed that steal on a laptop.
I also saw this very poignant Tweet that nicely summarized the core of the problem:
"If you work and still need food stamps, your employer is the one getting the handout." Fight for a #LivingWage! pic.twitter.com/P2LWBb0bFHBig corporations like McDonalds and Walmart are taking advantage of their employees, and in our capitalistic society, they will continue to do so as long as it is paying off. It is the duty of those of us who are capable to NOT give these corporations our business. Each of us plays a critical role in changing this economic landscape and it won't work until the trend to cash in on these "mega deals" ends. It reminds me of a Stanislaw Jerzy Lec quote (often misattributed to Voltaire):
— Ben Norton (@HeartsMindsEars) November 23, 2013
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.You might not see how camping out 10 days before Black Friday for a cheap plasma TV has an impact on your fellow person. In our economy, where gigantic corporations run the show, it's designed so that it's hard to follow your dollars and you don't directly see the impact your purchases have on others. And then myths about the poor are promoted so that they are blamed (ie, they're lazy, unmotivated, etc.) But even a simple understanding of basic economics will reveal that someone is short changed by the "Black Friday" frenzies. And if you participate in it, you are enabling that.
So yes, we each must approach the economy and spending just like we should approach anything: fully informed and making sure that our dollars are spent (and given!) in a way this supports our personal values. I think it's important to throw in some important caveats here...I am specifically talking about Black Friday/Holiday "deals" in this context and upper/middle class individuals who are financially capable of not shopping at big box stores, yet still choose to. The people who are waiting for 10 days to get a deal on a flat screen TV most likely possess some kind of economic privilege if they are able to devote that much of their life to sitting in line for a material want (not need). Specifically, this is not meant to shame low income people who shop at Walmart because that is the only grocery in their area and/or how they can stretch their dollar the furthest so that they can feed their families--that is an entirely different situation.
I've written in detail before about my personal struggles with the appeal of shopping and acquiring things, so I know that participating in these sales can be quite alluring. But we've got to weigh the cost/benefit of this all against a system that is much larger than our personal checking accounts.
Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.