Sunday, November 30, 2008

When Consumerism Goes Over the Top

A few years ago, I was in need of a new stereo, but I was also strapped for cash. I was working on my teaching credential, subbing and teaching private music lessons to stay afloat, and living with my parents. When I saw that WalMart would be charging only $50 for a five-CD changer stereo system, I knew I had to get one. Only problem? I had to get up before the crack of dawn on Black Friday, and brave the local WalMart.

Mom agreed to go with me, so we were up way too early that Friday morning. We did not wait in line, naively thinking we'd be fine. I was lucky--I got the very last stereo in stock by running ahead while Mom got a shopping cart. We spent about 15 minutes just trying to find each other in the mess, and finally got out of dodge and back home for a nice breakfast and to celebrate our victorious shopping.

I still have that CD player. After two years of non-use in my Antioch apartment (it's all about iTunes these days), I took it to my new classroom in Stockton. And there it gets good use.

That was my one and only foray into Black Friday madness as a consumer (I have worked it as a retail employee, and seen it from that unflattering angle, as well)--and I mean only. I will never willingly put myself through that kind of hell again. Crowds in general bug me, and the greed and the pushiness of bargain-hunters at a WalMart the day after Thanksgiving was enough to put me off of Black Friday forever.

You will never find me camped out in front of Best Buy or Toys 'R' Us. If I should ever have children, I don't care what the toy du jour is. If I find it, fine. If not, my children will learn to make do and count their blessings, because blessings--many of them--is what they'll have. I will not raise little consumer-monsters-in-training.

My rant this morning stems from the news we've all heard by now about the death of a 34-year-old WalMart employee in New York, who was trampled to death by an impatient crowd of 2,000 while he opened the doors for them.

In the worst display of shopping greed I have yet to read about, shoppers stepped over his body while his co-workers tried desperately to get to him to offer help. The shoppers themselves were too focused on visions of flat screens to notice that a fellow human being was on the ground, dying.

This is bad enough, but nothing could prepare me for reading this morning, that people were angry at police when the store was shut down for further investigations.

Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."

"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling `I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."

More than my dislike of crowds, more than my distaste for people who think the meaning of the Christmas season is stampeding like buffalo to get a good deal on a flat-screen DVD or an Incredible Hulk DVD, this comment is the reason I will never again participate in Black Friday. Nothing is worth a human life.

I will continue enjoying a laid-back Thanksgiving at home each year. You won't find me camped out, waiting for a store to open. Black Friday will find me sleeping in, full of good food and thankful for the family I shared it with. My parents and I might continue our annual San Francisco excursions, but Retail Hell will not be on our list of things to do.

As for the flat screens and the stereo systems, let other people have them. I'll use my 19-inch TV (not a flat screen) with it's built-in VHS/DVD players until the day it decides it's had enough. I'll merrily play my iTunes on the computer, and not have to constantly dust a stereo. I'll order cheap DVDs on Amazon. I will remember the true meaning of the Christmas season--it's not uncontrolled consumerism, but LOVE. Isn't that what it all comes down to? I'm not the most religious girl, but even I understand that at His very core, Jesus--the reason for the season--means love. Family. Doing good things for others.

Not stampeding over the lifeless body of a 34-year-old man--a man who probably wasn't all that thrilled to be working that morning anyway--just to get a discount on a television.

1 comment:

Miz Minka said...

Excellent post, very well said. Hear, hear!