Ah, Black Friday. It’s akin to the excited butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling we get on Christmas Eve, only a month earlier, and instead of too many sprouts, it’s punches from angry queuers that will have you doubled over clutching your stomach.
Last week my boss explained to me, with pound signs where his pupils should be and saliva gathering at the corners of his mouth, that Black Friday got its name because it’s traditionally the day when businesses’ profits would go from the red and into the black. Which is, in keeping with tradition, probably why some people left Tesco this morning with a black eye.
Black Friday is the exact time of year most of us have to look for a Christmas jumper that won’t make us look like complete idiots. It’s also when we have to look for a Secret Santa present for someone we don’t know at all, but now thinks we’re weird for showing a 100% increased interested in them, ostensibly for no reason, since we pulled their name out of a hat. A Santa hat, no less, because the office is so kooky and fun at this time of year.
These are the only things I can think of that stops Black Friday sales from being completely useless, because buying these things at full price would be a real tragedy.
But why people get so excited over today, I have no idea. Apparently mid-season sales, end-of-season sales, January sales and sales for no reason aren’t enough for our nation of shopaholics. Last year there were reports of a woman being taken to hospital from a Black Friday sale. In America, so many people have died from Black Friday accidents that there’s even a website purporting to keep an accurate count.
Last night, 24-hour supermarkets had to call for help from police, holding back sales until they arrived, and people queued for hours before midnight. This kind of, shall we say, “excitement” is nothing new. I’ve almost been a reluctant crowd surfer amid frantic Boxing Day shoppers. But forgive me for basking in the irony of supermarket ads telling us the true values of Christmas, before letting us stampede through their isles and crush people for the sake of a bargain.
I guess Black Friday has another redeeming factor: it’s a much-needed reminder that businesses are businesses, and supermarkets want your money, no matter how human they appear in the run-up to Christmas. After leaving everyone embarrassingly maudlin and tearfully declaring how special the Christmas ads are, Black Friday’s profit-hungry origins can set us back on the right track to thinking clearly again.
Sainsbury’s used a historical moment from the First World War to make money, with the illusion that “Christmas is for sharing”. Now it watches over its floors as people share punches for a half-price TV.
We can’t keep falling for companies’ self-serving pronouncements over the true, sentimental values of Christmas, whether it’s sharing, family or penguins. Black Friday comes at the perfect time to shake us out of our Christmas ad stupor and remember that our Christmases are none of businesses’ business.Reuse content