Black Friday has not only crept up on Thanksgiving Day in the US — it’s managed to eke its horrible way into the UK as well.
Asda, a massive Walmart-esque retailer (in fact owned by Walmart) here in the UK has been doing a Black Friday sale for a few years now, but this year it’s been launched in Asdas all across the country.
The result? One shopper described it as “bedlam, chaos…horrific.” A woman was assaulted in the queue outside an Asda, and a man was arrested after a spat erupted over two plasma screen televisions. Or some other fancy electronic device.
Other US retailers have also inaugurated this twisted tradition in their outlets in Britain. Not wanting to be left out of the “fun” (and all that delicious profit) some British retailers have followed suit.
Even John Lewis, a veritable bastion of sensible upper-middle class consumerism, is having its very own Black Friday sale.
Shame on you, John Lewis.
Although I honestly can’t imagine that there would be any fighting or unpleasantness in any John Lewis shop.
But that’s exactly what these limited offers for steep discount prices do to people — they make us unpleasant.
Suddenly what was once a gently milling crowd at a spacious shopping centre turns into a retail riot, a press so thick that it’s difficult to move. An attempt to purchase a 48-inch LCD TV (at a 70% discount!) before that other bloke gets to it echoes a battle scene from The Hunger Games. “Excuse me”s, “I’m sorry”s — any and all social niceties fly out the window, giving way to out-and-out jostling, shoving and elbowing.
And let us not forget the screaming, yelling and shouting that inevitably accompanies such happenings — at staff, at one another, at our children.
It’s difficult to remain well-behaved in such a context. If you do, the crowd will eat you alive. If you lash out, it’s only because you’ve been yelled at and elbowed so much that it’s become physically impossible not to push back. It’s tough to make like Jesus and turn the other cheek. I’m saying this because I’ll very happily yell back, shove and run with the best of them. But I just would rather not be put in that situation to begin with.
Which is why I didn’t go within two miles of a retailer today. And neither should you.
While I fully support the decision of some Britons to take up celebrating an American holiday like Thanksgiving, because it promotes conviviality and togetherness, as well as plenty of good food, I’m not so keen on the new adopted tradition of Britain’s very own Black Friday.
A bargain-driven consumer frenzy that can (and will) turn a usually pleasant, civil individual into an aggressive, grabbing, angry version of his or herself just can’t be a good thing.
Maybe it is time to move to Dublin.