Black Friday, I’m in Love

Farah Harajli, Detroit’s unofficial cultural ambassador to the City of Glasgow, discusses America’s annual shopping phenomenon.

Black Friday is probably the one day of the year when more deaths occur in Detroit’s surrounding suburbs than in the actual city. Oh, someone was shot over an LED television? I hope it was at least a Samsung this time.

All jokes (facts) aside, few experiences in a middle-class American life compare to that of standing in the back of a big-box store with 200 or so other suburbanites in front of you, all also carrying DVDs of four-year-old series they didn’t know they needed until today. And probably also carrying Pumpkin Spice Lattes® delivered to them by the same family members in charge of manning the parking situation that morning, so that one’s having to stand in line at Starbucks would allow the other to get the [iPad, TV, laptop, et al] without crisis. By the way, it’s 5am and there’s a polar vortex surrounding the area.

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Braving the polar vortex
[Copyright: AP]

So why do millions of Americans, myself included, partake in this obvious seasonal-sales gimmick? Why do we force ourselves out of turkey-induced comas in the wee hours after Thanksgiving in order to squeeze our still-digesting stomachs back into elasticated trousers, step into sub-zero temperatures and navigate snowy car parks that are ten times more crowded than during the rest of the year’s universally hated peak hours? I can’t answer for everyone else – my family don’t even celebrate Christmas. But I can tell you why I, someone who would rather have my wisdom teeth removed again than go to Costco on a Saturday afternoon, go out on Black Friday: capitalism.

I love it. Blame it on the American flag they made us recite a pledge of allegiance to each morning in primary school, but I adore capitalism and what it does throughout America’s horrifyingly indulgent holiday-shopping season. I love hearing the statistics afterward – that 2013 topped $57.4 billion, that Amazon received millions of hits more than the websites of brick-and-mortars like Walmart. And while I don’t love this next part, I do still research how many Black Friday injuries were either caused by overzealous dads who needed the same tablet or errant police-issue pepper spray.

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Friday night’s alright for fighting
[Copyright: AP]

When Christmas finally does roll around after one solid month of blaring Dean Martin and flashing-green-and-red build-up, Americans are so over it. The crowning achievement already happened back on the last Friday of November when the cashier at Best Buy (the US equivalent of Currys, but way better – just like everything else) told you to go ahead and swipe your MasterCard for 40% off of what you would’ve paid in July. It’s the thrill of the chase, of being able to tell the crowd you’ve gathered at the next holiday function about how you managed a further $100 off the portable Beats by Dre speaker because your university-age son was eligible for student coupons. You recall all this glory seven or eight months down the line when you find said speaker collecting dust in your basement because it ate its D-cell batteries so quickly. But it’s no shame because you didn’t actually spend the other $100 it’s worth. And goddammit, you earned the right to have, then go out and blow that money.

Farah Harajli

18 November 2014