When holiday deals outshine the holidays

Livermore, California, has become a point of interest in the past few years ever since an outlet mall on the town’s outskirts opened in 2014. These outlets have been rapidly expanding in Livermore — a town 45 minutes away from Berkeley — ever since its opening, and new stores are still being added to the strip to this day. The strip has put Livermore on the map as a shopping destination in California. Even on regular weekends, the mall is a frenzy of tourists who drive out of their way to make wildly expensive purchases.

One could only imagine the scene at this regularly packed mall on a designated shopping frenzy event such as Black Friday. Although we have visited smaller stores a few times, my family hasn’t even attempted to visit the local Livermore outlet mall on Black Friday. But it seems like they’ll get caught up in the hype this year. I’ll suffer the consequences of having to spend my entire day waiting for my mom to buy an item, walk out of the store, find another slightly cheaper item at a different store, return the first item and repeat this cycle for hours on end.

I hate that Black Friday comes right after Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant a lot to me. It was a special day for my extended family and I to get together, create new memories and cherish each other.

As I grew up, however, I became increasingly appalled by the way advertisers began pushing holiday-themed products and sales immediately after Halloween. By now, I’ve just become desensitized to it.

Seeing Thanksgiving completely overshadowed by invasive Christmas advertising and Black Friday sales had an internal effect on my ability to enjoy Thanksgiving. The singular emphasis on Christmas made me feel as if Thanksgiving wasn’t as important anymore because companies needed the extra profit boost from holiday sales.

I began noticing this trend approximately the time of the economic downturn in 2008. Maybe the stock market crash was so devastating that stores and corporations didn’t have the resources to advertise for or promote Thanksgiving, which is a much less lucrative holiday than Christmas. They must have realized the financial benefit and intentionally overlooked Thanksgiving to focus on Christmas. People seem to have adapted to the new corporate culture. It’s as if we now value savings on holiday-themed products and seasonal sales over our actual seasonal joy. “ ‘Tis the season to shop,” one might say.

The culture of Black Friday particularly disturbs me. The way people put all of their holiday spirit aside in order to save as much money as possible on a single day infuriates me because it doesn’t reflect the spirit of the times. I hate that such a humble, cheerful holiday like Thanksgiving comes the day before a consumerist nightmare.

Some may claim that people shouldn’t feel guilty about taking advantage of sales. But sales come and go year-round. Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year, and it’s not nearly as ridiculous as Black Friday. Black Friday is singled out by advertisers as the biggest shopping event of the year. Other buying holidays are promoted but not nearly as much. We’ve all heard the stories of people trampled at Walmart when the store opened at 4 a.m. after Thanksgiving.

I specifically remember going to Target with my family five or six years ago right after Thanksgiving to try and take advantage of the deals early. We got there at midnight, but the lines had already wrapped around the entire store. Obviously people had missed out on their Thanksgiving time just to shop during the period of extreme discounts.

I see a huge problem in this behavior. I, for one, value my time with my family over having to go through that hell. Competing with other shoppers like crabs in a bucket for products in a store somewhere sounds like a terrible way to spend the holidays.

Regardless, I know that my family will probably go out to shop this Black Friday. I don’t think it makes a difference whether you spend less money more often or significantly more money less often. Somehow, we have been conditioned by retail marketers to spend obscene amounts of money at one instant instead of spreading it out along the year. You still probably end up spending the same amount in the end.

I think holidays should be celebrated independent of this manipulative corporate culture. Families should not by any means avoid holiday shopping if it’s something they enjoy doing together. But people ought to appreciate the purpose of coming together to celebrate holidays.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get some shopping done at the local outlet mall when I go home for Thanksgiving next weekend. But I don’t feel too proud about participating in a jaded faux-holiday. Black Friday never fails to detract from the actual holidays that held a special place in my childhood heart.

Contact Justin Sidhu at [email protected] .