Black Plague

black friday at walmart

So yesterday was Thanksgiving, and we gathered around the dinner table and consumed inordinate amounts of meat, potatoes, sausages and stuffing, and just enough vegetables to ensure that our colons didn’t completely seize up. Because that would be bad – no-one wants to spend Black Friday crouched on the porcelain, doing a Marty Feldman, attempting to pass three pounds of impacted seasonal joy. In the process of said Thanksgiving dinner we paused to reflect on that for which we were grateful in 2014, and number one on the list was unquestionably that we would not be getting out of bed to join in the festival of crass excess and consumption that is the Black Friday shop.

I have tried to put myself in the place of those sad, overweight, invariably ugly people who you see on the news fighting their way into Walmart when the doors open; I have attempted to rationalize their actions on the basis that they don’t have much money, and they need to get the best deals they can. And I have come to the distinct conclusion that this explanation is complete and utter bollocks.

OK, so here’s point one: you know what the cheapest form of consumption is? Non-consumption. Compared to fighting your way through the store to load up a cart with two giant flat-screen TVs, NOT buying two flat-screen TVs is a dollar-saving winner every time. I started out life with no money, and now I don’t have no money anymore, but the more money I have, the less inclination I have to spend it on upgrading electronic crap which I can confidently predict will be out of date in six months and obsolete in just over a year. And it’s not like there’s anything on TV that would make any sane person declare “You know, I really wish I could see that picture, only much, much bigger, all over one wall of my house, and hear that voice in skull-penetrating Dolby surround sound. I’m off to punch some fat Hispanic woman in the head and grab a TV in Walmart.” Are you fucking kidding me? There is nothing worth staying in to watch on TV, and very little worth turning the box on for, even if you’re stuck in the house with no better options.

“What about football?” I hear you ask. Yep, I like football too. And the eleven minutes of actual action, sandwiched between nearly 50 minutes of clock running down while nothing happens, and a further 90  minutes of commercials for more crap to buy on Black Friday, doesn’t even come close to making me want to fight the chubby crowds. Apart from that you have sitcoms that aren’t funny, movies that are so full of commercials you want to break the TV, and reality shows that would insult the intellect of a cockroach. To want more of that you’d have to be – well – you’d have to be exactly the kind of certifiable moron who leaps out of the house to the Pavlovian ring of the Black Friday sale bell.

Fundamentally though, if you’re that hard-up that you need to immerse yourself in Black Friday hell to afford the things you buy, maybe you should try not buying them.

But here’s the next point. It isn’t even about the stuff people buy. I don’t believe for a moment that the people who shop those sales couldn’t afford the crap they buy otherwise. Either they’d buy a bit less or they’d pay a bit more, so it can’t be about needing to save money – it must be something else.

Here’s the pivotal question: “If a man buys a flat-screen for $99 in Walmart and there’s no-one there to see it, does he still get a bargain?” Do you think people would fight the crowds at the sales if they didn’t get to brag to their buddies on Monday “Yeah, I got two tablets for under a hundred bucks, and a 50 inch LCD TV for four hundred.” Is the real motivation the acquisition or is it the feeling that you got a deal, that you paid less than someone else for whatever shit you bought. You’re a winner because you got a bargain! Yeah!

It just beggars belief that there are that many people out there with that much desire to buy that quantity of crap, every fucking Thanksgiving, in addition to all the other crap they buy for the other 364 days of the year. But it’s all about the deal – buy it now, quickly, so you can get one over on all the other poor saps who bought it last week, and those who are going to buy it next week, because you’re the chosen one. The deal-maker. The caveman, dragging superfluous electronic shit back to your semi-detached cave so your functionally retarded offspring can amuse themselves putting their opposable thumbs to work on the X-box while your spouse paints gazelle on the wall.

I shouldn’t complain. Selling crap to people who don’t need it is what makes the world go round, or at least the US economy go round, and heaven forbid people should suddenly wake up and NOT want all that unnecessary consumer tat. We’d be in recession faster than you could say “fat people shop at Walmart”. The merry-go-round of “I need to buy shit, so I need to work, so I make shit that people can buy” is the bedrock of our whole economy. If I wasn’t at home flicking through the TV in a desperate search for something not shit to watch I probably wouldn’t even notice Black Friday. But the wall-to-wall commercials are a stark reminder that, not only are there millions of dumb shits out there, but they’re all entitled to vote. And if the Black Friday shopper is any indication as to the intellectual capacity of the American voter I’d have more luck trusting to that three pounds of impacted colon.

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