Friday, November 23, 2012

Brands of nonsense

Black Friday. You wouldn't join a stampede for a flat-screen TV, right? If you're reading this, if you're someone I know on-blog or in-life or both, it's a fair bet, and I think Charles Murray might have something to say about this. Personally, I spent the day doing a mix of laundry, test-writing, and parallel-parking-practice (getting there, but my three-point turns are exquisite). No malls.

Yes, Black Friday is gross. It evidently sucks for retail workers (see also: the Walmart picket line), and makes for some unfortunate visuals - this is the season of thankfulness (one that started early, with Sandy), and look, all these fools who can't just be happy with what they've already got. Even if the horde is buying gifts - you know, giving - it looks awfully greedy. And isn't the problem the American consumer's sense of entitlement? It's not like we even need any of this crap. After all, as the great storm showed, we're all slaves to our refrigerators.

But what's also meh - and yes, I'm repeating myself - is anti-Black-Friday smug indignation. Before you stare down your nose at the hordes, figure out what it is, exactly, that bothers you. If it's the unnecessary danger, the minimum-wage workers called in for nonsense on the one day a year all Americans are meant to spend with their families, fair enough. If it's consumer debt, I don't know, maybe remember that some of this is stuff people would buy anyway, but now they're doing so on sale? But if you shudder at all the materialism, while not minding a good sale one bit if it's on the higher-end stuff that interests you, that's something else. A flat-screen TV does nothing for me, but when that special Berlin nail polish was going for $9 a bottle, I was all over it. When I stumbled upon a sample sale in Chelsea Market featuring the best (and US-made, if you're into that) underwear brand, it's entirely possible that I took advantage. I can be smug about not having stomped on anyone in pursuit of my own brand(s) of nonsense, but that's about it.


Moebius Stripper said...

I'm assuming that that hipster Black Friday piece is meant to be taken ironically, simply the alternative poses too great a threat to my worldview.

Phoebe said...

Maybe? The site it's on is one about clothing-and-accessories sales in NYC, and thus not aimed at the kind of people who claim complete indifference to stuff. But I do think there are plenty of people who'd see going off the beaten path on the Lower East Side to a semi-private sample sale as fundamentally different from whatever one does at Best Buy.

Moebius Stripper said...

Oh, I know; those types abound in my neck of the woods too. Just that...isn't that the article you would have written if you were trying to write a parody of smug hipsterism?

Jacob T. Levy said...

Yes, this. Also: the haute-bougeois insistence that the proper thing to do is to spend Time With Family rather than shopping, which for many people requires the time and money for long-distance air travel (the purchase of which is not entirely unlike, well, shopping).

Phoebe said...


"Hipster" seems like not quite the right word for what that post describes. Those stores are more like avant-garde fashion, not that which is liked ironically. But what this points to is, if what you like is high-end and high-brow, sure, there's not going to be a stampede to get it. But these are choices made for aesthetic/class reasons, not out of concern for retail workers.


I was going to say I'd never seen quite this phenomenon (don't people shop with relatives?), but then I saw Dan Savage's recent post on the topic.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano said...

I don't really buy the idea that the Black Friday deals are so amazing; it's more of a glorification of shopping-as-activity, as something you just *do* because that's what people *do*. You know? That spans all classes, though not all subcultures (but if that NYMag link was any indication...).

There's most definitely a class link to the Black Friday disdain, and this is the first year I've heard mumblings of people saying just that (ahead of the curve you were, in 2008!). I wonder if that thought is percolating and if next year we'll see all sorts of earnest editorials about that instead of just finger-wagging at Black Friday. Thinking of how a certain class of folk went all nutty for organic food until local became the thing once people became more informed on what it meant to have organic produce shipped in from Chile.

PG said...

Also: the haute-bougeois insistence that the proper thing to do is to spend Time With Family rather than shopping, which for many people requires the time and money for long-distance air travel (the purchase of which is not entirely unlike, well, shopping).

No, shopping is not the same as purchasing. People who say they "like shopping" usually don't mean that they like spending money more than people who "dislike shopping." I am often not in the mood to shop, but I can't not be in the mood to purchase and still sustain life as generally lived in 21st century America city: I must purchase (particularly food and transport) in order to function.

Also, the majority of Americans live in reasonable proximity to some family member, particularly a spouse or offspring. I could spend all of Thanksgiving "with family" without going anywhere at all, thanks to living with my spouse, who does count as family. If the demand is that one spend the time with extended family, I agree this can involve significant expenditures of money; e.g. I couldn't see my dad's parents without a $1500 plane ticket.