Is Boycotting Black Friday the Answer?

Is Boycotting Black Friday the Answer?

There is something so perverse about a stampede of people climbing over one another in a race for a cheap TV... especially in the same 24 hour period in which they’ve broken bread (presumably peacefully) with their families and given thanks for all they have. How is it that we can go from calmly clinking glasses and happily catching up over pumpkin pie to shoving through crowds in search of the best deal no matter the cost?

Yet the snaking line-ups, the crowds, and the brawls that mark Black Friday have made it the single largest shopping day of the year in the US.

It’s no wonder why many people have opted to boycott the whole thing, taking part instead in Buy Nothing Day, an international movement calling on people to keep their credit cards firmly in their wallets. But while I appreciate the criticism of the over-consumption and wastefulness that define Black Friday, I don’t think buying nothing is necessarily the answer.

The ultimate question is not whether to shop—even if we boycott the mall on Friday, for the most part, we’ll end up buying things the other 364 days of the year—but instead, what to buy and how to shop. In short, it’s about shopping consciously.

Conscious shopping means an end to buying stuff that was ‘too good a deal to miss,’ but that we don’t actually need or want. It means no more LBDs that are worn once and then migrate to the back of the closet or fall apart after just a few spins through the wash. It’s about choosing items that last, and knowing where those products came from and how they were made. If you ask me, you can have a lot more positive impact from shopping consciously than from not shopping at all.

Ways to shop consciously this holiday weekend:

  • Shop Local: Wedged between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday. The intent is pretty self-explanatory – skip the big box stores and opt for a neighborhood shop. Not only will you be supporting a local entrepreneur, you’re also investing in your community; one study found that $45 of every $100 spent at a small, local business stays in the local economy, compared to only $13 when the same amount is spent at a national chain.
  • Shop Fair: The New York non-profit Global Goods invites you to buy one fair trade item on Fair Tuesday (November 27). That simple act of buying a single fair product impacts a whole community. Best of all, certified Fair Trade products are growing quickly so your options go beyond just coffee or bananas this year.
  • Deals That Do Good: Check out Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales at stores you know stock the kinds of products that align with your values. Your local eco boutique might be offering discounts this weekend, as well many e-retailers. (Over 100 exceptional socially-conscious brands will be on sale on Ethical Ocean!)

There are lots of ways to have positive impact through shopping this weekend (none of which involve wrangling for a TV), far more impact than skipping it altogether. Sure it’s more effort than snapping out of the Black Friday trance or choosing to avoid shopping altogether, but you’ll have impact with what you buy... something you can feel good about long after the sheen of deep discounts has faded or that crappy TV has broken.

November 12, 2012