Friday, November 18, 2011

Here's the Deal on Black Friday

Let's mark something off our to do list.                     

Save the economy. 

There. Doesn't that feel better?  My Sunday paper was packed with ads. My neighbor has up Christmas lights. News reports are filled with stories of consumer spending and frankly some of them make it sound as if dragging us out of a sluggish economy is dependent on whether or not we flit from store to store the day after Thanksgiving lining up for whatever deals corporate America sways us with.


Now don't get me wrong. I like pretty clothes, and a beautiful home as much as the next girl, but I had hoped that the absolute economic terror of 2008 would have changed us more than this. Does the person you are shopping for really need the thing you are buying?  How many of us really NEED anything at this point?

And what about that little thing we do, ladies? One for you one for me...

What does it say about our culture that every year we hear reports of fights breaking out over someone who cut in line, or people being injured in the rush to get--what?--more stuff. So with our stomachs full (something ALONE much of the world envies) we are willing hurt each other over cheap electronics and plastic toys.  This isn't a day that brings out the best in us.

I know this from experience. 

Several years ago my daughter and I were caught up in the madness of lots of really good deals. This was pre-recession and we were up early standing out in the cold in a long line. The store had gold bracelets for a ridiculously low price and I wanted to get one for my niece. At last the doors opened and we were whisked along a river of humanity to the jewelry counter. I heard the woman in front of me say "Can I get two?"

Now up until this moment I did not want this bracelet. I don't even like gold.  But when the sales girl handed over TWO of the coveted items, something greedy in me took over. Do you know that feeling? The one where you are out of control and don't even resemble the person you want to be? I was next.

"Can I get two?"

She handed them over.

The LAST two. An older African American woman behind me approached the counter to be told that they were out. She politely turned to me and asked if she could look at mine to see what they looked like. That's when I missed my chance to do the right thing. Do you know THAT feeling? The one where you could have made things right, but didn't?

My daughter and I shopped for several people on our list, but in the next few minutes that piece of jewelry became an unbearable weight in my hand and I went in search of the woman who should have gotten it. She had obviously left the store. Even after checking out I looked for her in the parking lot. At this point I was going to give her the bracelet I had now paid for, as a gift. She was gone.

Can you guess what happened to the bracelets? My niece got hers and I hope she liked it. Mine? I could never wear it. It's been in a drawer for ten years. Every once in a while I come across it while looking for something and remember the disappointment on that woman's face. Something I could have so easily prevented, or reversed.

It's far too easy to let advertising, our out of control (I mean, really? Still?) consumer habits, and the hype of the Super Bowl of shopping get the better of us. So while plotting your Black Friday attack strategy, which is likely to include defending your space in line, elbow and all, take a moment to remember what's important and who you are. They aren't selling integrity as a door buster and if you aren't careful you may lose yours, if only for a moment.

That's too long. Trust me.

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