Each year consumers and corporations alike lay in wait for the door busters that follow the annual Thanksgiving festivities. Businesses scheme all quarter for the revenue that accompanies the spending of over 100 million anxious shoppers on Black Friday. Meanwhile, savvy Christmas shoppers and excited spenders lace up their sneakers as they ready themselves to contribute to the $90.14 billion spent across the US on this holiday weekend. It’s a tradition that has afflicted the holiday spirit since 1952, and we at Strange Bikinis can’t truthfully say we’re all about it. This year, our company is skipping Black Friday in an effort to observe its impact on our gratitude, on social sustainability for both workers and consumers, as well as its detriment to the environment.
This time of year is our chance to be unabashedly grateful. As November rolls around, we naturally begin to feel that primal attraction to love and belonging. It’s a period sanctioned for appreciation. The holiday spirit hinges on our participation; gathering as friends and family, cooking together, thinking about our loved ones, and celebrating one another. Yet, year after year, we get side tracked by consumerism. The ads distracting us from quality time, the family members we’re saving left-overs for because they are stuck at work, the separation of mother and child on one of the most benevolent nights of the year for the sake of shopping. How is it okay for big business to exploit our holiday induced vulnerability by swindling us and our quality family time? Maybe that’s abstract, and this one is really about one’s own personal values. Maybe people look forward to this event because they do it with their families and it’s a fun tradition. In which case, I suggest we think about the other more explicit impacts of Black Friday.
Our role in Black Friday begs the question of our humanity, particularly as it relates to other individuals. Social sustainability is an important, often overlooked, facet of ethical business practices, and it is virtually ignored on Black Friday. Being socially sustainable is about maintaining and enhancing quality of life of everyone involved inside and out of the organization. Being a company that practices social sustainability means taking an individual’s health and wellness seriously. On Black Friday, many of us succumb to the pressure of consumerism, some having to bear the weight of it significantly more than others. Employees at retailers all across the United States are forced into overtime, missing out on Thanksgiving celebrations with family, and taken advantage of by sale-crazed shoppers who are too distracted to remember their manners. One might argue that the holiday is an opportunity for some to make more money than they normally would if Black Friday didn’t exist. While this is a fair assumption, we have to ask how 8 hours of overtime in a single day is justly compensated. The toll that this takes on the workers may be isolated to a few days of mental and physical exhaustion, but the fact that we are okay with it borders on inhumane.
Not only are workers being exploited, but consumers are as well. And it’s not entirely their fault. Corporations literally design Black Friday to rip people off as much as possible. Dad thinks he’s getting a good deal on that new tv, when really, the price was inflated just enough for him to not notice that the sale price is only slightly lower than the average retail price at the beginning of the year.
Those “$120” shoes home girl just scored for $80 on Black Friday, were $85 in February. After people waited in line in the cold all night, trampled kids on their way into the store, and made a mess of the point of purchase that someone is going to have to clean up later, a person may have saved $5, but lost virtue in the madness. Retailer: 1. Consumer: 0. And sure, its undeniable that saving a struggling single parent $50 on Christmas presents is a good thing. There is definitely a silver lining to the shopper’s credit in this. But at the same time, why is there so much pressure to buy buy buy? Why do we as a society put so much value in things? “More gifts equals more love,” isn’t an equation we should necessarily be reinforcing.
Unfortunately, the environment takes a huge hit as a consequence of this beloved tradition as well. Typically, the things that are for sale aren’t meant to last a long time. When’s the last time anyone saw a real Rolex on sale during Black Friday? A Patagonia jacket? A Toyota Camry? Rarely to never. Black Friday deals are majority low quality products, not particularly ethically sourced, and will likely end up in a landfill this time next year. That’s obviously awful for the environment, but for your wallet as well. It’s unrealistic to hold the consumer responsible for how long a product lasts, so in this case, the corporations are to blame. Why we let them sucker us into planned obsolesce? Probably because they are really good at selling it to us. Beyond the products themselves, Black Friday spews unsustainable resources. Hundreds of thousands of plastic bags. Cars idling in parking lots and through traffic. Fast fashion textiles only meant to last through 10 washes, being tossed after a couple months of being worn. 900 million packages estimated by the US Post office to be transported between now to the New Year, many of those being Black Friday purchases. Our participation in the shopping alone comes with so many ultimately avoidable consequences to our planet.
To be frank, Black Friday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Understanding the impact that it can have on the environment, consumers, employees, and humanity at large, is essential in comprehending how lack conducive the tradition is to overall sustainability. At Strange Bikinis, we pride ourselves on being an ethically sound company. We can’t succumb to the potential for revenue in exchange for compromising on our values. That’s not to say that Black Friday is beneath us, we’re certainly not out here to shame anyone who doesn’t agree with the cause. We simply believe that our focus during this time of year should be on how we hold ourselves and each other accountable for fostering a world that values gratitude, over consumerism.