Black Friday: 51st State?

“Have you heard of Black Friday?” I asked my teenager son.

“No. Is it to do with Black people” he replied.

“No, it’s to do with Thanksgiving and people queuing the night before hoping to get a TV half price”

“Sounds like a good idea” he concluded.

Which got me thinking. We all love a bargain. And got me worried. Yes, my explanation was flippant. But when I receive more and more emails every year from British companies telling me to buy, buy, buy because it’s Black Friday, it makes me wonder where it will end up.

A young woman was interviewed on the radio this morning. She’d already done her Christmas shopping so she wasn’t too happy about this new Bargain Day. She’s wasted money as far as she is concerned.

Is it such a good idea to let Black Friday enter our culture, as it has the US; is that really a good thing for this country in the long run? Billions of dollars are spent on that day. So yes, it’s good for business, mainly big businesses that have followed Wal-mart and Amazon.
Is that Amazon UK or Amazon US?

I know it’s all to do with consumerism; and band wagon. Yes, the UK increasingly becoming the 51st State. I don’t know how you feel about that. I’m French, so it’s no skin off my cultural nose but that worries me more than Poles taking our jobs, in the long run. Yes our jobs, I might be French but my kids are half British. And yes us French have a chip on our shoulder about America. But as a foreigner living in this country for almost 30 years now, I can’t help but notice that we follow the American elections one full year before Americans get to vote, and some of our political parties have employed Americans for their 2015 campaign; we listen to the American Secretary of State on matters of European concerns, like Ukraine, before we get to hear from the British government; even worse, Halloween gets bigger every year, or is just me thinking that?

The UK is unwilling to choose between being European or being America’s older cousin and best friend. Maybe the UK should not have to choose in our globalised world. Indeed most political parties in the UK are rather keen to sing the praises of an agreement that will make the US and Europe one big happy trading family. Not that they know any details (it is being discussed by the European Commission behind closed doors, as it is a trade agreement; and you can’t give away trade secrets). Rest assured, we are told it is a good idea. TTIP. (Don’t worry, it will go to the European Parliament to be voted on by our MEP’s. If you voted for a purple one, shame, they probably won’t turn up but that’s ok, they think it’s a good idea, I’ve asked all our MEP’s).

But I digress, that’s another subject altogether. Well, two actually; TTIP and Purple Politics.

So back to Black Friday. Where did it come from? Philadelphia’s police, early 60’s. Seems like a pretty bad start. Why did they call it that? Because they were overwhelmed by the number of shoppers. So here is a day that is so overwhelming that we need police officers to make sure people don’t harm each other in a stampede, shove each other hard enough to make sure they get there first. I mean we’re not the States, so hopefully we won’t get to the stage where armed shoppers, knackered to have spent the night queuing outside, cold from being unable to move to make sure they are first in the queue, hyper at the thought of the bargain of the century lose total sense of right and wrong and shoot an employee. But we can do stampede, and there’s been plenty of those in the States. One with fatal consequences where people just ignored a dead shop assistant crushed in the madness.

How does it get there?

Because like many things that start like a good idea, when we let them escalate without questioning them, they can tip over to the dark side. So next year, that young woman on the radio may well wait until she spends her hard earned cash. I hope she is safe when she joins the queues.

We are in a huge economic crisis. The bubble burst when the banking system convinced too many people who could not afford to buy a house that they should buy a house with a special mortgage; and then they lost their house. The people of course, they lost their home; not the banks, they kept the bricks and got saved by the taxpayers etc etc, we all know the story, it’s not history in books that can be amended to suit, we are living it. Are we out of that mess?

And here we go again. I bet you Black Friday is here to stay; for a while. It sure will help the big retailers.

Today, Black Friday 2014 the British Police weren’t too pleased to have to deal with overwhelmed supermarkets. Well, I can’t blame the Police, supermarkets are happy to take the cash but didn’t think of spending some of it on enough private security to ensure that staff and shoppers are safe.

What next, Thanksgiving in Dorchester to boost turkey sales in November?


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