Ever since I was aware of this thing called ‘Black Friday’, which is an uniquely American shopping craze the day after Thanksgiving Thursday and may result in someone losing an eye, limb or more during the shopping excursion, I’ve made a point to not leave my house. In fact, I do not leave my house for the whole of Thanksgiving weekend, from Thursday to Sunday. I buy whatever I need to buy with my Thanksgiving day dinner shopping (if I am doing one) and if I am missing anything, I just wait until the next week.
Since this year I decided to not do a Thanksgiving shindig, I didn’t do my weekly shop. As a result, I didn’t keep an eye on the necessities, the stuff that can’t wait until Monday, such as dishwasher detergent (of which our house will not function without) and feminine hygiene products (sorry for the TMI). So on Black Friday, I bravely ventured out of my home to the nearby Target store to pick up what I needed with the intention of getting out of there in one piece. Hopefully without being shoved or pushed over so someone can get to the flat screen TV that is 50% off.
I am happy to report I wasn’t shoved or pushed and I got out of there in relatively good time, all things considered. But there was a different sort horror show which we rarely see in America: haggling at the checkout counter. I have never witnessed anything so tedious as people haggling over clothes and knick knacks, whether they should be $12.99 or $10.00. There was some sort of promotion going on where if one purchased x amount dollars they got $5 or $10 additional discount on the final sale and you have folks who come up a few dollars short of the x amount and so on. Though there was only a couple of people ahead of me in line, I was in line for over 30 minutes.
This led me to think, is this what Americans are doing post Thanksgiving (and some even shop on Thanksgiving day as some stores are open on Thanksgiving day)? By just looking around, there is a major case FOMO (fear of missing out) going on. It seems as if people are just mindlessly buying things just so they don’t miss out on the sale, regardless if they really need it. I am not on any moral high horse. I love shopping just as much as the next girl and in my younger days, especially pre-kids, I’ve definitely purchased things on impulse, things I didn’t need, such as that extra handbag, extra pair boots or shoes. But part of getting older and growing up is being mindful of your actions and also having children seriously constrains your budget and you find yourself wearing the same clothes for years on end because your children grow out of their clothes and shoes faster than you do. It’s just a fact of life.
During the recession of 2008, the economy had difficulty recovering because of high job losses, a credit freeze and consumers were mired in debt. So for a few years, consumers spent all their disposable income paying down credit card and household debt and saved the rest if any was left, so very little was left for retail spending. Expert after expert on television and in print said the US economy is not rebounding because people aren’t spending, if there is no demand then companies can’t hire and it’s a vicious cycle of belt tightening leading to less spending and unemployment . We need to create demand they say, and that is code for people need to spend more money they don’t have or government needs to step in and create ‘shovel ready’ jobs, whatever that means. Obama tried to enact some sort of FDR like policies but he was met with heavy resistance and opposition. They wanted to bail out the banks instead. The experts made it seem like consumers paying down their debt is a bad thing because they are not contributing to the engine of the economy. Then you have financial planners such as Suze Orman who tell people to not spend money they don’t have on crap they don’t need, which is sound advice, especially when the US was bleeding jobs every month. It’s not wise to spend money when job security is shaky. Pretty obvious one would think.
The problem is the fundamental structure of our consumer based economy. If people don’t buy stuff, the economy stalls, if people buy a lot, a bubble is created, even if bought on credit (or money they don’t have) and then the crash is bigger so there’s no real growth, just a cycle of bubble and bust. American savers are punished for saving by way of taxes and low interest rates. Americans have no incentive to save unless it’s through a pre-tax retirement plan such as a 401K or company pension.
The frenzy on Black Friday is evidence of this trend. This mad frenzy of buying buying and buying without any thought or consideration of what one is buying. Right now, as people are handing over their hard earned cash or charging more on their credit; analysts, economists are crunching their own numbers right now so on Monday, before the markets open there will be ‘news’ to report. That news will determine the economy for the rest of the year and the first quarter of the next year.
It’s ironic to think the economy of the richest nation on earth is supported by middle and working class people, not millionaires and billionaires, yet they are the ones who dictate the economic policy to benefit them. They move their money offshore to avoid paying taxes in the United States. They buy their big ticket items such as yachts and planes in countries where they are not required to pay sales tax and store it in countries where they don’t have to pay personal property tax. But the average hard working American is handing over their hard earned money to Uncle Sam and big corporations.
So as a lone citizen protesting this unfairness, I do not shop on Black Friday or any other holiday shopping frenzy and this includes online shopping as well. I am interested in creating real wealth to sustain my family and peace of mind for when there is an emergency, not to satisfy the American economic engine.