We’ve all seen the images, crazed hordes of shoppers pushing one-another in a deluge of discount based debauchery. The American shopping tradition ‘Black Friday’ is set to roll though once again on November 27th.
Even though it was introduced to the UK a few years ago, it has managed to gain a particularly bad reputation. There was once a time when Britons looked across the pond, eyes furrowed in disapproval at the Americans display of wanton excess. But that time has gone, Black Friday is becoming a staple of the UK holiday season, and the shocking images it elicits are interchangeable from those within the States. In fact, we’ve taken so kindly to the bonanza that it has managed to knock mild mannered Boxing Day off its perch as the nation’s favourite day of fantastic deals. So, has it all gone too far?
Before a dowdy woman with a pushchair tells you otherwise, I would suggest that this isn’t the decay of British moral values. To tell the truth, the incidents that do make it on to the news are few and far between. Most Black Friday events are little more than gentle shoving matches, you’d find the same kind of behaviour during peak times on the London underground, or at the opening doors of a regular sale. There is something compelling about well adjusted and socialised adults going crazy over a 50 per cent off sticker. It simply translates into great TV, a fact which news outlets have latched onto and inadvertently sensationalised. Granted, Black Friday is happening all over the country on a single day, but to suggest that this kind of behaviour was alien to the country is hyperbolic to the extremes.
A number of MPs have called for stores to cease the practice. Ban this. Ban that. Why is the British answer to everything banning it? I do somewhat sympathise with the sentiment. After all, the term ‘Black Friday’ has a double meaning. Not only does it signify that retail chains are moving from the red (losses) into the black (profits), it also holds a darker meaning as the shopping sprees have inadvertently caused a number of unfortunate injuries and deaths. However, banning the day is short sighted. Black Friday is still in the experimental stages, and we should work upon not letting the event fall into a free for all. It just needs an injection of British reserve. The solution seems quite simple and can possibly please everyone.
The retailers can go ahead with their sales, but they should pay for any police presence that they require. Not only will the police presence subdue the shoppers atavistic urges and coerce them to form orderly queue’s, but it also quells any complaints that Black Friday wastes police time and resources. It will only waste as much police time and resources as football matches, pubs and clubs do.
The notion that “Black Friday has gone too far” is a bit nonsensical. Humans are a naturally competitive bunch and when placed into unrestrained areas it naturally turns ugly. It’s up to the stores to facilitate the behaviour. That said, there is nothing inherently wrong with Black Friday or its participants. The allure of a bargain speaks to human nature and shopping strategies are informed by human biology. It just seems that those who would duel over microwave oven at 8AM are a tad more unrestrained than most of us. But, while we watch the events unfold on the news and chortle in smug condescension, a little part of you probably wishes that you had that microwave oven. After all, the desire for more stuff remains in all of us. Black Friday shoppers are just more honest about it.