Tag Archives: black friday

Spirit of the Season

Thanksgiving week is a week of mixed emotions for me.  On one hand, I love it because I get to spend some extra time with my family, eat some really great food, watch football (lifelong Cowboys fan…I can’t help it) and spend some extra time focusing on all the things in my life for which I am thankful.  On the other hand I loathe it because this is the time of year that consumerism is running on all eight cylinders with a nitrous boost.  Everybody is spending money we don’t have on things they don’t need (or sometimes want) so that we can show someone just how much we love them.  Our television screens, magazines, newspapers, radio stations and websites are jam-packed with ads for the latest, hottest, fanciest and best products that money can buy.  And don’t forget the stores.  The stores make it so easy for us, don’t they?  Mega deals, door busters, all-nighters, early birds, free shipping and prices so low you have to see them to believe them.  Black freakin’ Friday.

Somehow, we lose sight of what the holiday season is all about (and I don’t mean in the religious sense).  Regardless of what you celebrate this time of year, we are all blinded by the blizzard and we forget that the season is supposed to be about family, about selflessness, about caring and about appreciation.  Instead, many of us focus on what we are going to get rather than what we already have or what we can give to those that are without.

Last year, after Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death in a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I woke up.  I realized that even though I was not at that Wal-Mart nor do I ever even shop on Black Friday, I was partly responsible for Damour’s death.  I was a cog in the retail machine that was powering that greedy mob that took his life so they could get a bargain on a waffle maker or a LCD television.  As consumers, we all have tiny specks of his blood on our hands because we continue to measure our self-worth by what we own rather than by what kind of person we are and we continue to buy without giving much consideration of the actual “cost” of our appetite for stuff.  We all, like it or not, bear some responsibility.

So last December, in a moment of clarity, I decided that I no longer would ask for or expect gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or anything else.  I decided to let my loved ones know that I do not want anything anymore.  What I quickly realized was that while I was trying to do the “right thing” I was depriving people of doing something that made them feel good.  I never looked at it that way before.  I quickly modified my stance on giving me gifts to the following:

“I do not wish to receive any gifts for __________.  If you feel strongly about giving me something please consider making a donation to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.”

I have to admit most of my family did not know how to respond.  I think most didn’t believe me and many decided to buy me things anyway.  I heard things like “yeah…but what to you REALLY want?”   However, some of them did simply make a meaningful (and greatly appreciated) donation.  That was the best feeling in the world knowing that I was able to make a difference (even if it was a small one) in someone’s life by giving up something I never had in the first place.  It was a feeling that I had not had since I was a little boy opening all those gifts that, at the time, meant so much to me.  Ironic, eh?

So, once again I am here to state that in the spirit of the season I do not wish to receive any gifts for the holidays.  However if you feel strongly about giving me something, please consider donating to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.

I would also like to challenge you to join me this year.  Put your own wants aside and see how it feels to help someone else this year.  It may feel like you are making some sort of personal sacrifice, but in the end you will be getting something much more valuable than anything on your wish list.

If you plan to participate in “Spirit of the Season” leave a comment to let me know.  Also, please post a link to this on your Facebook and Twitter pages and encourage your friends and family to participate.  I would love to see this catch fire and spread across the country.  Let’s see how big of an impact we can make this year!

Happy Holidays!

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Black Friday

Just how much is a human life worth?  Apparently as little as $9 on Long Island, NY.  Yep.  Nine whole dollars. You might be wondering how I came to this conclusion.  Well, shortly after 5 a.m. on Friday, November 28, 2008 (Black Friday) a man named Jdimytai Damour was trampled by a stampede of bargain hunters at a WalMart in Valley Stream, NY.  Some of the hot ticket items on sale that day were a Samsung 50 inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as “The Incredible Hulk” for…you guessed it…$9. 

According to reports over 2,000 crazed shoppers plowed through the doors as Damour tried to open the store for business.  In the aftermath, Damour (a 34 year old seasonal employee) and several others were engulfed and trampled by the impatient mob.  Damour was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.  Four others were also taken to the hospital for minor injuries, including a 28 year old pregnant woman.  Witnesses described the scene as “utter chaos” and one onlooker described the shoppers as “savages”.  Meanwhile, at a WalMart just 15miles south of Valley Stream, a woman was trampled by a similar mob of post-Thanksgiving day shoppers.  She suffered minor injuries as well.

It seems to me that incidences like these are occurring more and more frequently.  Should we blame the stores for offering these unbelievable bargains?  Or for not implementing proper security measures? Should we blame manufacturers for keeping prices high at other times throughout the year?  Should we blame the media for whipping consumers into a frenzy during the holidays?  The answer to all of these questions is yes.  However not to the degree we, as consumers, would like to believe.  In reality, only a small amount of blame can go toward the “consumerism machine” as I like to call it.  It is time we admit that we, the consumer, are to blame.  It is ultimately our choice to shop or not to shop – or when and where we shop and what we buy.  We can decide whether or not to camp out for 48 hours in hopes of getting 15% off a Nintendo Wii or a Tickle Me Elmo.  We also decide if we will enter a building in a civil fashion or if we are going to storm the electronics department as if it were the shores of Normandy. 

Unfortunately, we choose the latter all too often.  We lose sight of what it means to be part of the human race and we believe that feelings, emotions, relationships, interactions, and even lives are disposable.  It seems the things that make us human are the things for which we have little regard.  It is in this state that we become liars, cheaters, burglars, murderers, terrorists, and rapists.  It is in this state that we, ironically,  become less human.  Ultimately, if we do not change this disturbing pattern, it will be our downfall. 

You see, the scariest thing about the Black Friday incident at the Valley Stream WalMart is that the shoppers that trampled Jdimytai Damour to death didn’t stop to help him.  Many of them stepped right over him as they made their way to the racks of “Door Busters” waiting for them inside.  As the store managers learned that their employee had been killed, they tried to close the store.  They informed shoppers of the tragedy and asked them to leave the store.  Sadly, most of the shoppers ignored these requests and kept shopping.  And the woman who was injured in a similar incident 15 miles away waited until after she had done her shopping to file an injury report with the store. 

In the end, I don’t believe that we can do much to stop the “consumerism machine”.  After all, it is made up of businesses who exist to make money and to get us to spend money.  That is not going away, nor should it (although that is not to say some changes are needed – but that is for another time).  What we can do is think critically about what, when, where, and why as we consume.  We must become a society of critical, conscious consumers.  The benefits of doing this are priceless. 

That’s my $9.02 worth.


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