One of the most frightening shopping-related mistakes one can make, I’d imagine, would be accidentally stepping into a strip mall on Black Friday. It would be a feeling similar to what those lone survivors must feel in zombie films when they open the wrong door and find themselves starting directly into the hungry jaws of the walking dead.
I don’t mean to equate ardent deal-seekers with mindless, flesh-eating zombies, but there is a certain similar tenacity in both parties: One wants your flesh; the other wants to land that hot deal.
There is a habit often to disparage the Black Friday shopper as a brainless pawn in capitalism’s massive, maniacal campaign of manipulation. Those sorts of criticisms, however, are mostly trite and, oftentimes, don’t lead anywhere useful. So we won’t make them.
Instead, let’s do something different: Let’s throw away the negative, look within ourselves, and yank out the positive. And the positive is this: Black Friday, in all of its frenetic wonder, is the most distinctly beautiful shopping tradition that the Western world has to offer.
Consider its scale. Minus the Super Bowl, few things call so many Americans to attention simultaneously, and fewer things do so with such American fervor. Shopping, saving money, competing with fellow shoppers for a finite number of trophy electronics – Black Friday is almost Olympian in its scope. Recall the image of horde of shoppers bolting through open Walmart doors, scrambling, clawing, trampling. Black Friday brings out one of our most primordial urges – to save, save, save.
It’s also the ultimate gesture of love. In the hearts of every bleary-eyed Walmart pre-shopper is the ultimate desire to please their closest loves. Multiple hours of waiting in the cold pales in comparison to the joy on their spouse/child/dog’s face. They can suffer through the pain because the warmth of their heart gives them the strength to.
Black Friday also brings warmth to the hearts of corporate executives, who, peering at sales numbers, grin with joy at the news that shoppers enjoy their products. The heads of Sony, Apple, etc understand fully that people are strapped for cash, and they desire, above all, to make sure each and every purchase is a satisfactory one.
When a Black Friday shopper stands in line, when she crushes the hands and ribs of a fellow shopper underfoot, when she swipes plastic and wipes her brow, she is is doing it for the common good. The eager shopper operates with humanitarian efficiency, effecting, with every purchase, the fate of the world around them. The Black Friday shopper is a hero.