LIBN Column: Our great American shame
The early numbers are in: Americans spent approximately $12.3 billion on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
The two-day numbers weren’t as big as some retailers expected, given that many companies ignored the advice of their human resources departments and the cry of organized labor to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day. Twelve national chains – including Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy – checked their morality at the door, choosing instead to feed the insatiable appetites of the cannibalistic consumer.
The National Retail Federation expected sales to reach over $59.1 billion over the four-day weekend, but those numbers were also down – Americans spent only $57.4 billion.
So what happened to that extra 2 percent, a whopping $1.7 billion? Did a consumer revolt inspired by our traditional American value system secretly take place?
Nonunion employers forced their bewildered “associates” to turn in their turkey stuffing for blue vests, and plenty of shoppers responded, but the numbers don’t lie: This Black Friday left a bad taste in many mouths.
At least 110 retail workers were arrested during peaceful Black Friday civil actions at 1,500 Wal-Marts nationwide, while social networks blew up with photo messages regarding the working poor. The battle cry was typical: higher wages, health benefits, etc. But thrown in was a message exposing the newest Great American Shame – workers forced to leave their families on our most sacred American holiday to help consumers purchase goods made in China.
This exposé of our love for material things goes further than our local media. A worldwide roast of the Fat American Shopper concentrated on our more violent tendencies: In Chicago, police shot a shoplifter; in Las Vegas, a robber shot a shopper; in California, a police officer was injured in a shopping brawl; in New Jersey, a shopper was pepper-sprayed during a dispute over a bargain-price TV; in New York City, 15,000 shoppers mobbed Macy’s as it opened on Thanksgiving for the first time ever.
Some stayed out of the stores the entire weekend, but I couldn’t help myself. On Black Friday, I was asked to leave a Wal-Mart for distributing thank-you notes to employees. I left as soon as Suffolk’s finest arrived – but not before I preached to a large group of shoppers about Wal-Mart’s evil ways.
It felt good watching a few shoppers leave with me.