College students everywhere: the struggle really is real.
Last week my twitter feed was full of exclamations of how excited people were that our local mall, Westmoreland Mall would be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year. For those who work during the busy holiday days and hours, a celebration was in order. For the die-hard deal finders and shoppers though, they didn’t seem very happy.
So, are both of these responses acceptable?
For the last few years, my family has sat at the tables set up in my parent’s garage, stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner going through the many newspaper ads, preparing to go out and find the greatest deals around. The same conversation never fails to come up; “pretty soon Black Friday is going to have to be renamed as Black Thanksgiving”. My brother has even gone as far as to say that the chaotic shopping of Black Friday will pretty soon begin on the Fourth of July. My dad repeats himself every year before going in and passing out on the couch watching football; his idea is that it’s crazy that people really have to sacrifice time with their families on this day to work a shift that is totally unnecessary. Nonetheless, myself, my mom, my aunt and my cousin and his girlfriend are always mapping out our excursion for the night.
Three years ago I was a mere sixteen. I only had my license for a month, but my brother and I were still determined to go out and chase the best deals. We mapped out our plan and even had it perfect enough so that I could be back for my “Cinderella curfew” of 11 pm on a junior license. If I remember right, some of the stores opened up as early as 6 pm. My brother, Jake and I had our priorities in order so that we could be in and out, work as a team and be back home in plenty of time. My mom called us totally crazy for wanting to go out into the madness, but I’m pretty sure that my mom ended up joining us and driving us so we didn’t have to worry about being back in time for my curfew.
Since then, the times that the stores have been opening for sales only gets earlier and earlier. Last year I’m pretty sure that the stores opened as early as 4 pm! If any other family is anything like mine, our Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t even start until 1pm and by the time all of us ladies are done gossiping at the table as we nibble on the leftover desserts and noodles, it’s 5 pm at the earliest! I know for a fact that if I were to ever work in retail and had to leave my family to work a shift that should be considered double overtime but probably isn’t (I honestly have no idea if it is or not), my parents would not be happy, if they even left me go.
Luckily, I’ve never had to worry about this. My brother and I both have summer and holiday jobs in the restaurant business which makes it easy to get off for our family holiday events (especially because we have the coolest boss ever).
Although I feel bad for the dedicated workers who have to leave their families to accommodate the madness of Black Friday deals, I’m a hypocrite. I sympathize with those who are forced to come into work, but I’m also a reason that they have to come in. Since I’ve had my license, I’ve been one of the crazies to head into the traffic, the aggressive and determined moms willing to get their son that Nintendo DS at all costs, even if it means possibly losing a limb or eyeball over it. I live for going thru ad after ad and finding the best deals. But then again, I’ve always been a shopaholic and will use any excuse to get my retail fix of spending money.
There's been a recent boom in the popularity of vintage style looks and up-cycling thrifted finds to sell at, usually, an outrageous price. Is this ethical? Or does it defeat the whole purpose of thrifting in the first place?
One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a tweet about upper-middle-class class people thrift shopping. I personally was against the up cycling/re-selling trend because I thought it to be greedy. Then, I began to see more and more tweets, and then stated to see ones about those who buy thrifted, name brand items and sell them for what they're actually worth instead of the very low price they got them for.
The debate is that thrift stores are for those who are economically disadvantaged; upper to middle class folks have increasingly become interested in thrifting, which leaves little options for those who could are actually struggling to find affordable clothing. As a middle class serial thrifter, I was interested. I wondered if all my previous thrifting was actually doing more harm to others than it was expanding my closet and saving me money. So I researched a little bit and have found a few different viewpoints on the issue to consider.
The first I'll touch on the fact that when a store gets so much business, and a demand is seen for their items, they raise prices. So, obviously, this is detrimental for the less advantaged people who actually need and depend on those thrift stores and their low prices. I've actually witnessed this happen in my own town.
As I said before, I was a serial thrifter with a love for vintage tee's and sweaters. So when I pop into my favorite thrift store and see that prices have changed from $1.25 to $1.75 (and sometimes more depending on the item) I was a bit upset. I even noticed a specific section in the center of the store with all the more expensive, and consequently, name brand items.
A name brand item can make all the difference for someone who is poor and needs a nice shirt for a job interview. It can be the difference in getting the job or not. It can be the difference that takes them out of poverty. Or a little girl or boy in school. I used to see kids getting made fun of for their clothes and being poor, and not provided with the same opportunities as the richer kids. So, it was disheartening for me to realize that something like this could stop them from improving their confidence and quality of life.
Most middle to upper class people have more than enough clothes, and just want new ones. I'm guilty of this. When I figured out that I could go on huge shopping spree's with a mere $20.00, I was all over it. This presented me with a problem though; I was never buying anything I actually needed. I was much more apt to buying something just because it was super cheap and I thought I *might* wear it. But more importantly, I was taking advantage of a system and taking away opportunities for people who didn't have it as well as I did.
Then, there's the argument that there's plenty of clothing to go around. And for big cities, this may be the case... but think about smaller towns and communities. If there's a small portion of poor people who need the thrifted clothing, and a moderate amount of richer folks who are buying up all the good clothes, that just doesn't seem fair to me. But, there's also lots of bigger thrift stores who donate to service projects, and it's great that they're profiting off this trend of thrifting.
This isn't to say that middle class people don't sometimes find themselves in a place where they need to thrift. It's also not to say that no one who has money should thrift shop- ever. I'm writing this as more of a reminder to be conscious with our purchases and when bargain shopping. Yes, you found it for a steal- but, do you really think you'll put it to use? Yes, it's a killer shirt for a low price, but can't you find another decently priced shirt elsewhere and perhaps give someone else an opportunity to be trendy and stylish? Just food for thought.
For the past few years, having stores open on Thanksgiving has become a popular trend. The sales have started earlier on the day known as Gray Thursday. Now, the Mall of America has taken a bold stand and is closing its doors on Thanksgiving. They are very excited in giving the day back to their workers so they can spend time with their family.
With the largest mall in the US closing its doors on a day that is spent with family, will other stores follow suit? Unfortunately, for the majority, the answer is no. The CEOs of many retail stores and restaurants would rather make money instead of allowing their workers to be with their family. People wake up on the mornings of holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, and instead of getting ready for a big family dinner, or opening presents, they have to get dressed and go to work. For some people, they only get to see their family on holidays because of distance and time. Now, the stores have taken this chance away from them.
Parents don't get to enjoy seeing their kids opening their presents in the morning. Someone might not get to make it in the annual family photo. College students might not even get to come home. All because of corporate greed.
Of course, there are the few lucky employees who asked off in time. But, there are a limited number who are allowed to do that. Sometimes, it's always the same employees every year. This might start to cause resentment among the other workers who want off also. It's almost never the CEOs who suffer this unfortunate circumstance. They have the choice to stay home and experience all the holiday joy without having to worry about work until the next day. What happened to the days when everything closed on holidays except for hospitals? Once upon a time, even being open on Sundays was shocking. Being open on holidays was not even considered. People believed in the importance of family and being there for them. Now, we believe in money and how to make more.
It isn't just the CEOs who are guilty of making the stores remain open. It is also the people who decide to go to the stores, all to save a couple bucks. Do people really need to go out on Thanksgiving? The biggest sale day of the year is the very next day! What is so important that you can't wait one more day to get? Not only is there Black Friday, we also have Cyber Monday. So, if the store sells out of an item, you can still go online and get a good sale price for the same thing. Do the customers not realize that because they keep coming, the employees are missing out on important moments? Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. These are the days that people spend the most time with their family. Even government buildings and schools close on these days. Why not retail? Let's try to get back to the time where companies cared about families and about families. We all need to help bring this back. When the customers stop coming, the stores will start closing.
On a personal level, Black Friday has always confused me. Everyone just ate a ton and spent all day with their families—why would we want to go out and vigorously shop, fighting crowds? I totally see why other people want to go do it, but I’ve never quite understood the concept myself. While I’ve been Black Friday shopping once or twice, I don’t get that excited about it unless it’s an opportunity to spend time with family or friends. Don’t get me wrong; I am the queen of bargains. Still, I never seem to have the energy to go out into the jungle of shoppers early the day after Thanksgiving, or even immediately after Thanksgiving dinner. Many people, though—including my loved ones—are enthusiastic about Black Friday shopping, and it seems most other Americans are the same way. So, it’s worth looking at the reasons for this commercially-driven, unofficial American holiday.
The story usually goes that “Black Friday” earns its name from retail companies’ previous system of recording losses in red and profits in black: After spending most of the year “in the red,” the holiday shopping season begins, and the companies are “in the black” again in terms of profits. However, these color-coded records are not the real origin of the name of Black Friday.
Back in Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s, the Army-Navy football games the Saturday after Thanksgiving were a huge deal, and suburban folks would rush into the city on that Friday. Law enforcement was overwhelmed with not only the intense crowds but also the shoplifters that would take advantage of the mass confusion. Philadelphians began to refer to this day as “Black Friday,” and this term caught on by 1961. Retailers around the nation, who had already held this day as the commencement of their holiday shopping season, decided to adopt the term as well, but with a positive spin: They’d say the “black” represented the color of their profits, rather than the stress of that day.
Since I was little, though, I’d always assumed it represented the day’s hectic nature. I saw many of my family and friends gearing up to shop, and attended a few of these adventures myself. When I went, I saw people who were deeply stressed about this ordeal. On top of that, occasionally I would hear on the news that someone had been injured or, in a few extreme cases, even killed just trying to get through the madness. Sales are awesome, but are they worth that risk? I would say no. I also disagree with the idea of Black Friday being pushed back onto Thanksgiving Day itself. That completely defeats the purpose, and it comes too soon. On another note, I do appreciate many stores’ recent spreading of the sales into later in the weekend or online, that way more shoppers can avoid the lines and the crowds.
The day after Thanksgiving has always been regarded by many as the beginning of the Christmas season. While not a federal holiday, many people take off work, spend time at home with their families, and enjoy the beginning of the holiday season. This Friday off turned into a prime opportunity to begin the never-ending chore of Christmas shopping. Soon it became one of the busiest shopping days a year, which companies capitalized on by bringing the best deals of the year to this day we know as Black Friday.
Since 2005, Black Friday has been one of the busiest shopping days of the year. In 2012, the big-box stores further capitalized on the madness and began to open their doors on Thanksgiving day, with most retail chains following suit in the years after. This day has often turned violent, with mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters alike fighting over the best TV deal, the last Xbox set in the bin, or the newest laptop computer. For many, the day after Thanksgiving is no longer a day spent baking cookies and decorating the house, but is rather a day consumed with stuffing shopping carts full of material items we could all live without.
Having worked retail before, I know Black Friday is a nightmare. There are people running all over the place, clothes strewn in every direction, kids that cannot be found, coffee cups that cannot be filled fast enough, and there is surely no end in sight. I also know I can shop similar deals any other day of the year. I know I would rather be anywhere else but that insane mall, which is why I have become a supporter of REI's #OptOutside Campaign.
If you are unfamiliar, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) is an American retail company specializing in outdoor recreation equipment and sell everything from sporting goods, to camping gear, to clothing. REI began their OptOutisde campaign in 2015 where they announced they would be paying their 12,000 employees to not work on November 27th (Black Friday). All of their doors- including their 143 retail locations, their two distribution centers, and their own headquarters- would be locked shut in order for their employees to do what they loved most, go outside. The campaign was such a hit, REI decided to make it even bigger and better this year with more sponsors, more accessible information, and more social media outreach. So far, for November 25th, 2015, about 1.5 million people have chosen to #OptOutside, and I hope you do as well.
I plan to Opt Outside this Black Friday, not only to burn off the thousands of calories I will consume at Thanksgiving dinner, but for many others reasons as well. I want to forget about the material objects, and focus on the beauty of our world. I want to stop constantly checking social media to see what people are doing or thinking, and rather walk and talk with one of the most important people in my life. I do not want to consider shopping "exercise" anymore, and I want to actually get up and moving before the winter takes its toll, bringing the inevitable weight gain. I do not want to buy more shoes, but rather I want to break out the hiking shoes I own, the ones I do not use as often as I should. I want to support the OptOutside Partners, not the big box stores that believe the right thing to do is to open their doors on Thanksgiving day. I simply want to enjoy the beautiful part of the world I live in, and that is why I plan on opting outside.What about you? Are you in? Find ways to get outside here; and while you are at it, encourage others to get outside with you, because the shopping can always wait.
1. Brittany Morgan, National Writer's Society
2. Radhi, SUNY Stony Brook
3. Kristen Haddox, Penn State University
4. Jennifer Kustanovich, SUNY Stony Brook
5. Clare Regelbrugge, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign