Empty Wallet Wednesday
Red Card Roberts
November 29, 2016
A friend of mine who lives in Uganda called me last week to catch up. “Happy Black Friday!” she exclaimed when I answered the phone. I chuckled, wondering how someone born in a remote African village had heard of Black Friday. “It is an American holiday, no?” she asked for clarification.
I had to think about that. Technically it wasn’t a holiday, but we certainly celebrate it more than Columbus Day. I read somewhere that more employers give their staff the day off on the day after Thanksgiving than they do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
How could I explain to my friend — who had likely dodged deadly snakes, violent poachers and a few barbaric militants while walking 15 miles to a neighboring village with a dial-up Internet connection — that we set aside one day each year to trample people in order to save $20 on a product likely made in China by workers who toil in near servitude? How could someone who has to schedule her bathroom breaks around a lion’s naptime grasp standing in line at 3 a.m. and getting into a fistfight over a Nintendo? How could I explain that in America, if you camp out for a TV, you’re a savvy consumer; but if you camp out for social justice, you’re a dirty hippie and risk getting maced? In America, it’s perfectly acceptable to pitch a tent for capitalism, but not for Democracy. To us, year-end consumption is a patriotic duty.
“If Black Friday is indeed a holiday, it’s one that has a ‘last days of civilization’ feel to it,” I finally conceded.
Next to my father, the most important man in my life is Ed, the UPS driver. Without him (and Amazon Prime), my house wouldn’t be furnished, my dogs wouldn’t get fed and I’d be naked four days out of the week.”
I realized I had confused my friend when she asked, “Why do you keep the turkey in a tent?”
Several years ago, in another lifetime, I lived in Uganda for a bit, taking part in a humanitarian effort to teach English to children living in an orphanage. It wasn’t the easiest period of my life, but without a doubt, it was the most rewarding. For those challenging but gratifying months, the consumerism of the Western world simply didn’t exist. I wasn’t inundated with advertisements, imploring me to buy for the sake of buying. In my village, if it couldn’t be made, grown or found in nature, it wasn’t a necessity. We had black mambas, but definitely no Black Friday.
Even before the experience I’d never been much of a Black Friday enthusiast. I suppose it helps that my gift giving list is relatively small — my immediate family and (some years) a boyfriend. Besides the ease that comes with having only a handful of people to shop for, if I find the perfect gift for someone, I’ll buy it no matter the time of year and hide it until Christmas. I’ve done that for as long as I can remember. My college boyfriend knew I bought gifts well in advance and one July he tore apart my apartment trying to find his. After that, I hid his gifts in the dishwasher — it was the one place I knew he’d never find them.
So Black Friday isn’t much of a holiday for me. My shopping list is almost always fulfilled by then. I generally don’t spend on Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday either. I try to support local businesses year round and Cyber Monday is a daily event at my house; I buy nearly everything online. Next to my father, the most important man in my life is Ed, the UPS driver. Without him (and Amazon Prime), my house wouldn’t be furnished, my dogs wouldn’t get fed and I’d be naked four days out of the week.
Then of course there’s Giving Tuesday. Which kind of feels like the leftover low-fat, gluten-free, non-dairy dessert no one wanted on Thanksgiving. Giving Tuesday is the digital equivalent of dropping change in a red Salvation Army bucket. And, after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, change is just about all most of us have left.
It makes me wonder when Empty Wallet Wednesday will be born.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.