Black Friday: an Ethnography


November 29, 2008 by Jen

I’m generally a shy person. I need a break after extensive large group time. But inexplicably, I really like going shopping on Black Friday and Christmas Eve. I am not the 6 a.m. doorbusters type of girl; instead, I enjoy rambling around the mall in the afternoon, silently smirking at the exploits of my more intense fellow shoppers.
Here are a few highlights.
Minivans. The first sign of Black Friday is the overabundance of minivans on the highway. These are the mothers rarely seen on the interstate, but who drag their children out of bed at 5:30 a.m. in order to buy discounted winter coats and microwaves. 
Sneak tactics. The best way to ensure first dibs on items in a narrow aisle is to take a wide cart, man it on each side with several children hanging off the basket, and park in the center of the aisle while you start at the other end and work your way up.
Bizarre priorities. When it takes longer to return an item than it took that item to be made, purchased, gift wrapped, and opened.
Holiday spirit. There’s nothing like watching shoppers snatch items off a pile and toss them on the floor or ram other shoppers with their cart, to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The only thing better is three guys roaring with laughter when you accidentally crash into a fake plant while passing slow-moving shoppers.  
…and finally, the countdown…
  • Number of non-employees wearing Santa hats: 1
  • Number of fathers sitting dejectedly outside a store: 15+
  • Number of teenage couples holding hands: 9+
  • Number of people asking help figuring discounts or deciding between two items: 2
  • Number of people using hand sanitizer in the food court: 4
  • Number of awkwardly loud cell phone conversations: 2  
What memories…
On a more serious note, Black Friday has become a dangerous day. The phrase “doorbusters” was not meant to be taken literally. It’s not funny to consider store employees trampled, injured, and even killed by rioting shoppers. In fact, it’s downright disturbing when you think about it. No $388 flat-screen TV is worth it; not by a long shot.
The sights and sounds of madcap shopping make funny stories. But honestly, when consumerism leads to a blatant disregard for humanity, that’s no laughing matter.  As much as I get a kick out of the atmosphere on Black Friday, I wish that giving thanks and celebrating the people in our lives, rather than the effects of overeating turkey, would be what sticks with us into the Thanksgiving weekend. 


One thought on “Black Friday: an Ethnography

  1. Natalie says:

    Ha-ha, I like your countdown list! :D(Hmm…is countdown “list” redundant?)I tagged you for a blog photo thing….details are on my blog.~Natalie Roth

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