One of my favorite High School jobs was at my local Sears & Roebuck. I started out selling vacuums, then moved my way to electronics (witnessing firsthand the messy transition from tube to flat-screen TVs), and eventually, I found myself in lawn and garden. I’ve never driven a tractor, but I was once ranked 12th in the nation (of Sears stores) at selling the protection agreements that came with them. It was a great experience that prepared me for a lot in life, but it was not all commission and playing Guitar Hero on the plasmas. There was a dark side to retail.
While my time at Sears was short-lived in the grand scheme of things, I did work two Black Fridays at that establishment. I rose from my bed at five AM, drove to the store, and by 6:30 we had a line around the mall we were located in. When the doors opened at 7 a.m., the crowds rushed the registers hoping to secure a brand new 32-inch Samsung for the low price of $2300. We sold out, nationwide, in five minutes. My 17-year-old ass was left having to tell a line of angry adults that they wouldn’t get their TVs. It was a nightmare.
As pointed out in a recent segment of The Daily Show, I got off easy. The hilarious Desi Lydic broke down the history of Black Friday. From its humble beginnings to its blood-soaked end, Black Friday will have a legacy of shame and embarrassment. Why subject a team of tryptophan-tainted retail workers to the crazed whims of erratic shoppers? Now you can order from home and force some driver who hasn’t had a bathroom break in 57 hours to do it for you.
The origins of Black Friday should come as no surprise. Store owners wanted people to start shopping for Christmas sooner. They wanted this so much that they through a parade, like a capitalistic starting pistol where the trigger is Garfield and the bullet is a fat white guy in a red suit that is suspiciously clean.
It’s not necessarily the idea of Black Friday that puts rocks in my soup. Why not give people things they want to buy at a cheaper price? The problem is that the deals are put out in a way that is just capitalism and competition distilled down to its strongest form. People compete for these TVs, tractors, and vacuums like they’re getting them for free. They’re competing for the opportunity to empty their bank accounts (looking at you, Swifties).
It’s not quite The Running Man or The Hunger Games, but Black Friday makes those things seem all too real and far too plausible.