This post originally appeared on my blog There Has to be a Better Way.
American Thanksgiving is here and with it comes Black Friday and the newly added Cyber Monday – the obscene and absurd practice of merchants reducing their goods to supposed “rock bottom” prices so the consumer can get the deal of the year in-store and now online. I am not sure who started this practice but every sector of the consumer market has jumped on the band wagon to push their products like “drug dealers” to the “junkie consumer” and it bothers me deeply.
Now I realize that some people may need a new television set, a new computer, a new game system, new winter clothes, etc. but I am quite sure that the millions of dollars spent on this one day of the year (which starts the holiday shopping gluttony) is not matched to any actual need of North American consumers. It is a need of the merchant but certainly not the consumer. What I see is a massive consumer products machine creating demand where none should exist, appealing to our disconnected souls and promising satisfaction through the artificial high of shopping for their goods on this one day. Stores open exceptionally early for this event and consumers lineup like starving people at a bread line to get the last loaf. Eyes glazed over, slack jawed and practically shaking with the anticipation of buying the latest, greatest thing they won’t care about in a week. It is common for people to suffer injury and even death in the crush of consumers pushing and shoving their way into the store, to the merchandise, and even physically fighting over the last item. Let’s think about this for a moment and take a look at it from a distance, separated from the “I got a major deal” mindset.
Why do we as free, independent individuals want to act like sheep for a consumer good? For me, personally, I cannot think of much worse than enduring massive crowds to fight for artificially limited items. The store ensures it does not have enough of the sale item in order to drive the “must buy now” behaviour. It’s part of marketing 101 – create demand by limiting supply and opportunity. But here is the absurd part – no one actually needs these items and there is always another sale. I have noticed this trend over the last decade or so, every store, except your ultra luxury brands, have sales on every couple of weeks. There is no need to jump at the “Black Friday” sale notice because there will be another one. Also, there are very few products where only one type will meet your need or want – many versions exist so if you don’t catch the sale on this brand, this week – another one will be on sale the next time. Plus if you really do need this item you don’t need to buy it on Black Friday or any other sale day, so why participate?
What impact does this mindless consumption have on people and our planet? We must consider this whenever we buy anything, even our food. Who is benefitting from a product that is being sold as a massive mark down? It is certainly not the labourer, factory worker or environment where the raw materials for the item were sourced. In order to mark down a product so significantly and still generate a profit (be in the black) on the product, likely every level up to and including employees of the manufacturer was not treated fairly, equitably or with consideration for environmental impacts. It is even possible slave labour was used, communities were oppressed and warlords were paid to create the “sale item”.
Do you really want to be the reason these practices occur, because without mindless, deal-hunting consumers who do not care how their goods are made, manufacturers would not persist or succeed with these practices. We the consumer allow reprehensible production practices to continue because we want more stuff for as little dollar cost to ourselves as possible. However, the irony is that the constant consumption of goods produced without full cost consideration in terms of the environment and humanity is leading us to our own destruction.
What I wonder is why we persist in being complicit in our own demise. As the consuming public we wield all the power to insist companies produce the goods we use in a manner that does not destroy our environment, does not oppress people anywhere and creates a future based on a just and sustainable economy. One that produces only goods and services whose waste production/outputs can be used by other processes and when they have reached the end of their lifecycle can be returned to the manufacturer for repurposing/recycling/reusing.
This is what we should be getting up early for, fighting for, and paying for – a better way for everything and everyone.
For more information on thinking and acting sustainably check out these links.