Black Friday

A long time ago, back before children and remodeling houses, when Thanksgiving was at my mother-in-law’s and I had time to make leaf crusts on my pumpkin pie, I used to venture out early on Black Friday. I’d scan the ads after overindulging on food and make a list of things to look for the next morning.

The first television we bought together (which is still surviving nicely at my mother-in-laws fifteen years later) was a Black Friday 6-AM purchase at Sears. Blankets, sheets and scarves that I look at and think, “$5 doorbuster at Old Navy” or “Over 50% off on those” that are still in use.

A few years ago, I started getting the Black Friday ads online a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Since some stores offer price matching or receipt adjustments, I could plan surgical attacks instead of spraying birdshot. I started shopping Target on Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, hunting down the exact items that I wanted, buying them, then returning on Friday morning before the sales ended and having my receipt adjusted. Easy-peasy.

This past Tuesday I spent about an hour and a half at Target, searching for the sheets and blankets and iPod dock/radio that I want. And when I made my way to the checkout, I saw a sign taped down next to the credit card reader:

NO PRICE ADJUSTMENTS ON BLACK FRIDAY ITEMS THIS YEAR.

So I handed the cashier everything that I had selected and walked out with a few purchases. And I was irritated, not just because they’d changed their policy, but because I’d wasted time that could have been better spent studying for my upcoming Chemistry final. It’s not like I’m hoarding stuff that I don’t need; I can only afford the nice 600 thread-count sheet sets and fuzzy blankets on Black Friday because they’re almost 60% off. And the fleece pajama sets for the kids are almost 50% off. But is it enough to make me forsake my warm bed, tea and monkey bread with my kids on Friday morning? To throw elbows to chase down a deal, when we’ve just gotten done telling our kids how thankful we are for what we have?

Last week, someone posted this little graphic on facebook:

Um…  yeah. Irony at its height.

Every year we say we’re going to keep Christmas small, and for the most part, we do. One big gift for the kids, and then smaller things that they need (socks, fleece pajamas, long underwear) or want (new video games, dollhouse accessories, LEGOs). They have more board games, books and toys than I ever had at their ages, and yet we’re going to give them more? Simply because it’s expected?

For me, this is a much-needed reminder that we need to appreciate what we have and think carefully before buying something — ANYTHING — because we see a quota on stocking fulfillment. I’d rather give each child $100 and go to WalMart or KMart and let them be “Layaway Angels,” paying down on someone’s layaway just because, letting them feel the joy of giving. Or take them shopping and let them choose baby items, clothing and toys off of the Providence House (a crisis nursery in Cleveland) wish list, then let them help us deliver those gifts.

We all want our children to develop attitudes of gratitude and service towards their fellowman. But how do we achieve the balance of giving them good things… but not too much?

So I’m boycotting Black Friday. I’m staying in my pajamas, having tea and brioche cinnamon bread for breakfast and playing cards with my kids, paring down my list and (because I’m being honest) maybe doing a little online shopping later.

Maybe.

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