Things That Make You Go Hmmm — November 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

American hyper-consumerism run amok: stores open on Thanksgiving. Celebrate Buy Nothing Day today!


Seriously. Just. One. Day.

Anne and I are spending the Thanksgiving holiday in St. Louis and, last night, we were returning from our dinner and celebrating at around 11:45. We drove by the West County Center, a huge shopping mall anchored by one of the biggest Macy’s I’ve ever seen. Traffic was backed up to get into the mall and the parking lots surrounding the immense shopping complex were packed with drivers circling to find an open spot. The doors to the store entrances that we could see as we passed by the orgy of materialism were blocked by people wrapped in blankets, obsessed shoppers who had obviously been there for hours.

The mall opened at midnight.

I was disgusted. This display of off-the-hook consumerism is the ultimate expression of why most of the rest of the world despises us on some level or another. We are unable to take one day off to give thanks for the things that we have without finishing it with an exhibition of unbridled pursuit of more and more and more.

I’ve been celebrating Buy Nothing Day (BND) since the late 90s. The day was started in Mexico in 1992 and, in 1997, the celebration was moved to the day after Thanksgiving in America, so-called “Black Friday”. In the rest of the world, it is celebrated on the last Saturday in November. It became widely known when the group Adbusters began promoting it.

Since its inception, BND celebrations have gotten more and more creative. In addition to general protests and folks standing in front of shopping centers handing out information flyers about hyper-consumerism, other, more attention-getting activities have formed.

There are Zombie Walks:

Zombie Walk

The cheerful dead wander around malls, marveling at the blank, comatose expressions on the faces of shoppers. The zombies are happy to be among their own kind, but slightly contemptuous of those who have not yet begun to rot.

There are Whirl-Marts:


You and nine of your closest friends silently drive your shopping carts around in a long, inexplicable conga line without ever actually buying anything.

How bad has the Black Friday craze gotten? Michael’s, the craft store, opened at 4 p.m on Thanksgiving Day.

The Christian Science Monitor, who is live-blogging Black Friday 2012 protests, reports that it’s not just Michael’s:

Big box retailers made headlines this year by kicking off Black Friday earlier than ever. Kmart, Walmart, Toys R Us, Sears opened their doors at 8pm on Thanksgiving in many states, and Target opened at 9pm.

The early openings drew criticism from those who argued that shoppers and retail workers should be spending Thanksgiving at home with their families.

The Nation is also live-blogging, with a focus on the protests against Walmarts across the country. You can find a Walmart protest near you HERE.

Perhaps the most blatant example of our country’s slide toward Idiocracy is the complete lack of self-awareness on the part of the shoppers. One such oblivious hyper-consumer is Shay Brown, quoted in a CNN piece on Black Friday:

New York City resident Shay Brown, 25, who spent Thanksgiving with relatives in Pittsburgh, decided to head to the Wal-Mart in Pittsburgh’s Robinson Township for Black Friday shopping with her family, but wasn’t thrilled about the early opening time.

We could have been sitting around enjoying each others’ company, but instead we had to rush here to get the deals,” said Shay, who was shopping for DVDs.

Wait. “Had” to???

In a piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch comes a similar display of obliviousness:

I hate it,” said Michelle Huff, of the Beaufort area, waiting in line outside a Toys R Us in Sunset Hills that opened about 15 minutes ahead of its planned 8 p.m. opening to let shoppers escape the falling rain. “It cuts into family time.”

Huff said she prefers the midnight and 5 a.m. openings so she can go out when her children are asleep. But she came out nonetheless for the 8 p.m. opening.

Its something I like to do,” she said. “It’s a tradition.”

She likes it! She hates it! Neither she nor Shay Brown even gave thought to NOT doing it but they complain about it while they are doing it.

For myself, I’m going to celebrate the day the way I do nearly every year: with a walk in the woods with my wife and my dog. And by not buying anything.

Join me?

  • Carolyn4444

    The only day we really bother to do a little shopping is on Small Business Saturday. The feasting’s properly done, and we try as much as possible to patronize the local entrepreneurs in our own area. We even look for a mom & pop restaurant in which to grab a bite of lunch. There are more than enough non “Big Box” stores around that are happy to have us as customers, and as a bonus, we even are grateful for the individual help and friendliness they offer. Besides, the money stays in our community as do the jobs they provide.

  • Pat Okerlund

    I have never given in to the Black Friday craze and I didn’t know about BND. I hate crowds. A walk in the woods sounds great to me.

    • We’ve changed out minds. Now it’s a round of disc golf with my Bro-in-Law for me while Anne hits the woods woods with the dog : )

  • Ruth

    Really? Shop if you want to. If you don’t want to then don’t. As far as why the rest of the world hates us, who cares. For them hating us is a way of life.

  • Anna123

    It is ludicrous that this year every big box store decided to open on Thanksgiving Day. I don’t get into the Black Friday Event and don’t care too. It’s ridiculous.

  • tuba_man

    I’m very anti-“black friday” for several reasons, and I hope this sort of thing catches on to at least reduce the gross consumerism of it. On the other hand though – it seems like those gas one-day boycotts over the summer. Habits aren’t changing. The consumerism is still there. The big-box people are still getting the deluge of holiday spending. The only difference is it gets stopped up for a day – and to me, that isn’t really a difference at all.

  • Carol

    With you Chris…let the crazed battle it out. For us, it’s leftovers and a good movie.
    Tomorrow I’ll support some of the local stores downtown, hoping to find that unique gift for someone on my list.
    TRADITION is what many of the shoppers being interviewed on the local news claim…these folks are nearly my age…I say follow the REAL tradition and leave the plastic one behind.
    Also avoiding Wallie’s in support of the strikers…the statement the company made for TV news shows they just don’t get it. With some persistence and continued support, they’ll “get it” in time.

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  • Lynn Miller

    Along with Buy Nothing Day, how about National Walk In The Woods With Your Dog day? You could start a trend!

  • You know, I’ve noticed something.

    All this anti-consumerism stuff? Came into vogue about the same time that poor people started having nice stuff.

    I’m not saying there’s a correlation or anything, but you know…

  • Hal

    Great post. I did not buy anything on the 23rd of the 24th. In fact I spent Thanksgiving volunteering at my church all day. Much more enjoyable and a good deal less stressful. I’m so tired of the new religion of consumerism. It’s so far from what true religion it is that it consumes its worshipers and frankly is killing the nation where it is practiced. You’re calling it an orgy was very apt as it is humanity at her lowest and absorbed entirely by selfishness.

  • Philip

    I have a similar discomfort with Black Friday, especially as it creeps more and more into Thanksgiving proper. Something just doesn’t feel right about it. I’ve started a conversation about the subject at my sociology blog

    I’d like to get feedback on how I’m discussing the subject, and your posting seems like a “kindred spirit”.

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