Today is Black Friday, that annual apogee (or should that be nadir?) of rampant consumerism where frenzied shoppers will quite happily trample little old ladies to death, just to get a good deal on a new television that they don’t really need. If you’ve ever want to know how it would feel to be caught up in a zombie apocalypse, then being in the middle of a horde of Black Friday bargain-hunters is probably about as close as you can get (although you might stand a better chance of getting through the experience unharmed amongst the zombies!).
Living in Britain, Black Friday used to be something that only ever really appeared in the consciousness as one of those wacky ‘And finally …’ stories on the news that we would watch, bemused, while shaking our heads in a disbelieving manner as we wondered at the strange things our cousins across the ocean got up to in the name of consumerism. But now, Black Friday is slowly raising its ugly head here, too, which is really strange since we don’t even have Thanksgiving, so why do we have a sale the day after it?
For whatever the reason, Black Friday looks like it’s here to stay, but for those, like me, who’d rather face a zombie horde than participate in such an egregious outburst of consumerism that encapsulates much of what is wrong with modern western society, there are some interesting alternatives out there that can help you strike back.
For a start, there’s International Buy Nothing Day (which falls on the last Saturday in November in much of the world, but the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US). Started in Vancouver in 1992, it’s an international day of protest against consumerism and needless over-consumption. The idea behind it is simple: Challenge yourself, and indeed your friends and family, to try to go 24 hours without buying anything what-so-ever (it’s harder than you might think!). While you can just do it on your own, there are also organised events, like Credit Card Cut-ups, and even zombie walks where participant ‘zombies’ wander around shopping malls or other consumer havens with a blank stare. When asked what they are doing participants describe Buy Nothing Day.
Next on the list is to sign a Pre-NUPP with your friends and family. What’s a Pre-NUPP? It’s a pre-Christmas No Unnecessary Presents Pact. You know what it’s like at this time of year, you find yourself racing around the shops, grabbing random things to give to people because you know that at that precise moment they are doing exactly the same for you. None of us want such poorly thought-out gifts and they never end up getting used, yet still we buy them because we somehow feel obligated to do so, driven by the fear that we might be unexpectedly given a gift when we don’t have one to give back in return. So, why not get together, well in advance, and simply agree not to give the damn things to each other in the first place?
This, of course, doesn’t mean not celebrating Christmas or anything like that. It simply means that you’ll not be giving people things they don’t really want or need, just for the sake of giving them something. Remember that when it comes to presents, it’s the thought that counts, not how easy it is to wrap, and there are a lot of alternatives out there to traditional gifts. Why not try, for instance, to do something nice for them instead: Offer to babysit the kids for an evening, or even a whole day, take them out for a nice meal, or coffee and a chat, or how about helping them do that DIY task they’d never get round to doing on their own. The possibilities are endless, and they’ll appreciate it a lot more than that over-priced piece of tat you were going to get them!
Then there’s #GivingTuesday, which this year is on the 2nd of December. The idea behind #GivingTuesday is simple. It aims to encourage people, charities and businesses to donate time, money or their voice to help a good cause. The feeling you get from grabbing a bargain on Black Friday is fleeting and will vanish the moment you get home an open the box (and it will be followed by an overwhelming feeling of dread when you open your credit card bill several weeks later). The feeling you get from doing something good for someone else lasts a whole lot longer. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of eminent psychologists who study this very phenomenon. They call it Helpers High, and it really is a high because of all the endorphins which are released when you take the time to help someone else.
So, if you choose to, enjoy Black Friday, but remember that there are other options out there that won’t leave you quite as broke, and that will leave you a lot happier than fighting complete strangers for the last box on the 75% off shelf, when you don’t even know quite what it is you’re fighting over – all you know is that 75% off is a bargain you’ve somehow convinced yourself you cannot live without, no matter what’s inside. After all, that sort of behaviour is really best left until the zombies rise, and you are left fighting for life. Now, that’s something that really matters!
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.