Black Friday Is Stupid, Consider the Gray

Note: The original version of this story stated that Many Hands Trading would be closed Friday, November 27. However, they will be open from 10 am to 8 pm. They will also be open Saturday and Sunday. We regret the error, most especially because this is a business that contributes to many causes in our community that we also support.

Think Big Shop Small sign in a conceptual imageThanksgiving Day weekend sale scavengry seems a black and white dispute. Black Friday frequenters hold steady on the darkside while whitewashed boycotters lobby. However, this turkey-day issue, I’m laying down shades of gray (in a non-BDSM way) to meet you in that small-town space where spending, not sale-seeking, matters. Time to get consumer-friendly.

But first, this fun fact: sales associates have holiday prerogatives other than checking you out. Some of them have kids or cats or fuzzy socks to attend to.

This turkey day, I’m saying special thanks for employment outside the retail realm, right before getting stuffed via shoveling in stuffing, letting out a loud gobble, and surrendering to a two-day sleep coma, hopefully uninterruptus of re-lived retail terrors.

Wasted Wait-Time
The average American spends two years living in line. I can’t imagine any prize worth extending that sentence (except maybe a couple extra years of living). Among top-notch snatches worth the wait last year were the iPad Mini, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Vizio HDTV and Keurig K Series.

Electronics are key to Black Friday traffic, which is  fine if you need to feel like the cast of The Big Bang Theory—sadly America’s second most-watched TV series—is sitting in your living room, like you’re in on their poorly written neurotic “nerd-humor,” I understand waiting for that half-priced plasma. Still I could never condone or frequent the Black Friday frenzy, and stats show a fellow-minded age of consumers.

Last year’s Thanksgiving Day weekend shopping dropped $6.5 billion, a second consecutive dip expected to carry on declining. Positively, profit loss may be proof of a more confident, savvy and secure consumer. According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s spending was its lowest since the Great Recession, indicative of a prosperous economy, less reliant on cashing the piggy for seasonal steals.

With job gains steady on the rise, feelings of security amongst employees were up 7% from 2013. And it’s the mom-and-pops we have to thank, creating over half of today’s new jobs. For every $10 million made at a small business, 57 new jobs are created, compared with the 14 jobs after such a profit at Amazon, for example.

Strength in City Spending
Consumers are more likely to spend their holiday dollars at small, locally owned businesses for reasons such as authenticity, unique experience, customer service, and community support, specifically on days like Small Business Saturday (SBS), Nov. 28 and our city’s Buy Local First Day, Dec. 5.

A proclamation in support of Corvallis’ small businesses, recognizing these two days as vital to local economic growth was signed by Mayor Biff Traber Monday, Nov. 16. The proclamation is based on data supportive of local spending, including the statistic of 1,200 small businesses present in Benton County, making up 99% of regional employers, and their 21,000-plus employees.

For every small business purchase, 48% of the cost is filtered back into its locale, compared to chain stores which for every $100 spent, give back $14.

On a cyber scale, a region may not even see a giveback. Amazon, circulating the most online sales come Thanksgiving Day weekend, isn’t liable for property tax or any other locally-sourced expense within the region its consumer majority resides. Further, enterprises like Amazon, unlike local stores, hardly ever set aside any profit for charitable causes–this from the Advocates of Independent Business urging us to think this year before we click.

More locally, there is Cindee Lolik, General Manager at First Alternative Co-Op, who said, “The Co-op has always had and will continue to have a strong commitment to local.  We are owned by over 10,000 community members and we strive to create a marketplace where we provide our local growers and makers, our neighbors,  with fair prices for their goods and labor.”

Lolik is also president of Corvallis’ Community Independent Business Alliance, and said, “Buying local is about the wealth of the community, but not only economic wealth, it’s about the wealth of relationships and the strengthening of community ties—knowing the farmer who grew the blueberries you purchased at the farmers’ market, having the clothing store owner call you when something comes in in your favorite color, or having your local bank send you flowers when you close a loan.”

On Saturday, Many Hands Trading will be discounting all clothing items 10% and offering a free tea towel with the first 20 purchases of $50 or more.

“Shopping local in our store is especially important given our donations on Days of Sharing,” said Jessica Westwood, a buyer and assistant to the store’s General Manager. On a scheduled Day of Sharing, the shop gives $1 of every $4 earned to a local charity of choice, such as the Boys and Girls Club, who they will be working to support come December.

Repeat offenders like Kmart, Target, and Fred Meyer will be dishing out shifts Thursday through Black Friday. Runway Fashion Exchange opens its doors come 8 a.m. on Friday, releasing its anticipated high-fashion beanie and bestowing deals to those who braved the line before store hours.

My advice: if you get the itch in your pockets, wait at least until Saturday, when you can score sale-priced anomalies. And in the meantime, take REI’s advice and take a hike, a family hike. Breathe in together them sweet, shedding trees.

Don’t Drone Yourself
Growing up, my mother was one brainwashed by the ideology that underlies Black Friday, always spacing out under sale signs and zombie-piling the shopping cart. She simply couldn’t resist those red tags.

I woke up each Christmas to our pine tree retching presents, only to peel back the paper and realize they mostly misrepresented me. Of course my mother meant the best, was being savvy in her learned way, but truth be told I would have been much happier with just that one thoughtful expenditure in the haystack.

Giving people what they need or deserve takes careful consideration. Too often we are herded to sale signs. Endorsed days just keep tacking on, too. Between Black Thursday and Cyber Monday, there’s only that Save Yourself Sunday in between to count our losses and leftover loose change (while shamefully gorging on leftovers).

 I’m not saying abstain. I just endorse that common-sense sentiment to put your power in your pockets and think before you swipe. To value local over drain-chains, the personality of a purchase over its price or an abundance of not-so-special surprises.

By Stevie Beisswanger