It all starts on Black Friday, the most American of “holidays.” Some stores can’t even wait until midnight to start offering bargains to shoppers looking to jump start holiday gift buying. Others open insanely early to large crowds ready reenact Pamplona’s running of the bulls as they charge into the store. Yes, it’s that time of year again: the season for holiday stupidity.
It’s Called “Black” Friday for a Reason
This year’s festivities were tame by past standards. There was no repeat of the 2008 Wal-Mart stampede on Long Island that left a worker dead. Nor was there an incident like in 2011 when shoppers stepped over a man named Walter Vance who was suffering from a heart attack. He would later die. No, it was a quiet year: only three people died is a series of shootings at malls across America.
Rankor even has a list of some of the worst Black Friday events here.
That’s right – three people died in 2016…while shopping…the day after Thanksgiving. Have we all lost our collective minds? Has anyone not clued people in that there is more to life than getting twenty dollars off of a video game console? Are people so enamored by “stuff” that they show a complete disregard for people’s safety just to get their hands on the one flat screen television a store advertises for seventy percent off? Apparently. It’s the beginning of the “holiday stupidity,” and its roots run deep into the fabric of our nation.
Consumerism and America
I am not absolving people from responsibility for their abhorrent behavior during the holidays, but let’s face it, consumerism is a societal norm. We have been conditioned to want more from the age we were old enough to watch television. Marketers targeted us as children by convincing us we needed the latest and greatest toy. For me, it was the U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier (greatest toy ever made, IMHO). For girls, it was the Barbie Dream House.
As we got older, we moved into different target demographics, but the message never changed: you need to have this. The cumulative effect is a never-ending assault on our self-control, and we are losing the battle. Don’t take my word for it – it’s one of the opinions of the American Psychological Association.
We are under constant assault from marketers. And that leads to holiday stupidity.
How Bad Is It?
BabaMail put together a great list below that illustrates just how insane things have gotten in America. Check out their article for a list of the sources they used. All these are reasons why we deal with holiday stupidity. Number 14 is the scariest, and most men might say they are actually low-balling it.
In 1930, the average American woman owned 9 outfits. Nowadays the average American woman owns 30.
25% of people who have two-car garages don’t have space to park their cars.
In the last 50 years, the average American home size has tripled.
Since the early 2000’s the home organization industry has doubled in size. It now sees an annual earning of $8 billion.
One in ten Americans rents a storage unit outside of their home.
There are over 300,000 items in an average American home.
Each year the average American throws away 65 pounds (29 kg) of clothing.
An average child will accumulate 238 toys by the time they are 10 years old. They will only play with about 12 of them.
Annually Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry and watches ($100 billion) than they do on higher education.
Researchers have found that present day Americans purchase twice as many material goods as they did 50 years ago.
60% of private consumption worldwide is done by 12% of the world, who live in North America and Western Europe.
In the US, there are more malls than high schools.
The average person will spend 3,680 hours (153 days, or 5 months) of their lives looking for misplaced items. The most frequent items are phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork.
Throughout her lifetime, the average American woman will spend more than 8 years shopping.
Almost half of American households are not saving, nor do they have a savings account.
Most households have more television sets than they do people.
Never Underestimate Stupidity in Large Numbers
The love for “things” and our consumerist tendencies does not necessarily equate to stampedes, fights, and Black Friday violence. In fact, the vast majority of shoppers brave enough to venture out on the king of shopping days do so in an orderly manner. So what compels some people to act like morons?
There are working theories, but stress and the natural competitive spirit of human beings are the two leading culprits. Why fight over that final toy on sale? Is it because you really want to buy it or just don’t like to lose? The same applies to violence in the parking lot. The jerk who took your spot is precisely that, but why does someone resort to pulling a gun and shooting? I’m guessing it’s the same reason. Holiday shopping is survival of the fittest. USA Today even created a survival guide that treats the experience much like Patton mapping out a war plan to sweep through Western Europe in WWII.
When we treat something like combat, it becomes combat.
Of course, not everybody shares the opinion. Jay Gabler’s blog The Tangential wrote an article telling everyone to quit whining about how stupid the event is. He has valid points, one of them being that some shoppers go bargain hunting that day because they cannot afford to pay full price to give their families gifts at Christmas.
If you’re wondering how ridiculous we look to others around the world, well, you might be surprised. According to an article on the Matador Network, most nations have little exposure to Black Friday mania unless something really stupid happens. Which of course, it does ever couple of years. Holiday stupidity may not be confined to America, but we are by far the worst purveyors of it.
Surviving the Season of Holiday Stupidity
As individuals, we cannot change our society’s lust for things on our own. I am not advocating becoming a minimalist or shunning the season. I am urging everyone to remember what the season is about: giving. Sometimes, we just need to take a breath and give our patience, even in the face of stupidity. Be charitable. Encourage charity and patience of those around you. Pay kindness forward. Most of all, don’t be “that guy” who everyone complains about.
Consumerism isn’t going away, but we can all do our part to make the holiday season a little more joyous and the shopping that goes along with it far more bearable.