Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Wednesday

Black Friday is well-known throughout the retail and bargain-hunter communities as The Day of Shopping. While also promoted as Buy Nothing Day by the Adbusters organization, that proposed holiday doesn't seem in any danger of taking hold, even in light of the drastic downturn in our economy.

Still, lower sales are forecasted for this year's holiday spending. You wouldn't know it, however, from the throngs flooding Seattle's U District today to get in some pre-holiday shopping. Do we now have a Black Wednesday as well? I think this is the first time I've had the day before Thanksgiving off work, but seemingly I was far from the only one with time to spare. Cars were backed up, sometimes for blocks, waiting to get in and out of the posh University Village shopping center, and Trader Joe's was as crowded as always. Well, OK, since Trader Joe's truly is always crowded, that's no news. But U Village? Does everyone just want to go window shopping or comb the clearance racks, or are we really still shopping these days, perhaps even when we shouldn't be?

Of course, I got sucked into it, too. But I did have specific items in mind - ingredients for soup for tonight's church potluck, for mashed potatoes for Michael to bring in for a Thanksgiving morning (make that four in the morning) potluck at work, and for tomorrow's canned-food free green bean cassarole. Practicalities, right? But then I bought pretty red "nesting tables" at Pottery Barn and a turquoise top at Anthropologie, hardly some of life's requirements.

Now, in my defense, the items I bought were on sale. And furthermore, I have planned for months on buying these tables, and first tried on the top a couple weeks ago before going back today to see if I could find it in the size I wanted. In other words, nothing I bought was truly an impulse buy. (What does it say about me that I have a hard time even purchasing a shirt unless I've though about it for a few weeks, or, more likely, a few hours at least?)

Perhaps I am a little more particular about what I buy than the average person in my situation. But still, I buy. Black Friday, however, will not find me at the mall, or even Trader Joe's. Is this because I plan to be one of those brave souls who honor Buy Nothing Day? Well, maybe, but... it probably has just as much to do with the fact that I'll be working that day.

And in the end, we'll all head to the stores at some point this holiday season, whether on Black Friday or not. At least, those of us who are lucky enough to have the means to do so will. With all the lay-offs, forclosures, and even abject poverty around us, we cannot ignore the fact that we are privledged. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful to be one of the lucky ones, but am also mindful that could change in an instant. Even more than attempting to bolster the economy by spending our cash and credit, I hope we can put some - dare I say most? - of that money where it has the chance to truly help someone. Let's give everyone a reason to be thankful this year.

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