Today is not my day. Today is a day I dislike intensely.
Today is Black Friday – a day of consumer mania. The media and retail industries have whipped themselves into a frenzied, frothy hysteria about sales and deals and one-time opportunities that consumers must take advantage of. And for many years, I was a part of this circus.
As a journalist, almost without fail, I had to do some assignment connected to this false “holiday.” It didn’t matter the publication, whether online or at a newspaper. At times I had to write about potential sales trends, or the hottest toys, or the best places to shop. And of course, there were those times when I had to get up at the crack of dawn to stand in line with the customers or wander the various suburban malls to find out what people really thought about their shopping experience.
After the first few times of having to cover Black Friday, I tried to be creative with my stories; I did first person shopping accounts, I profiled particular retail stories or business districts, I did a couple of humorous pieces.
But soon, it started feeling artificial and redundant. The story almost never changed, and they were always upbeat. There were seesaw sales receipts, depending on the year, but by and large stories either met their goals, or they did not. Consumers were, by and large, either hardcore Black Friday shoppers or it was their first time experience. Or the (fill in the blank) deal made them leave their homes and trek out to grab that perfect gift.
Don’t believe me? Read today’s Black Friday stories. The similarities in the stories are striking. They’re all aping each other, falling over themselves to write about the same topic in the same way. And compare that to the year before. Same … same.
It was the worst type of journalism groupthink. I always felt – especially as the print industry was starting to crack – that our resources needed to go into more important community stories. Run an AP story on Black Friday and call it a day, I always thought. For retailers it’s free advertising and I’m not a fan of that. And every Thanksgiving, I can feel Black Friday encroaching.
So, today I’ll sleep in. Today, I’ll take a walk around Oakland and enjoy my community. And I won’t buy a damn thing.