Friday, 27 November 2015

Black Friday, Europe? Really?

Black Friday sales take place because it's the day after Thanksgiving and most Americans have the day off. Why are we observing it in Europe?

OK, I looked the other way when Europeans increasingly became gripped with Halloween fever over the past several years. I watched in silent bemusement as I saw Europeans hosting Thanksgiving dinners with no Americans present. But today I have to draw the line.

Black Friday, Europe? For the love of god, why?

I suppose I get where this is coming from. Europeans watch a huge amount of American television and film and they want to emulate the American holidays they've seen celebrated on screen their entire lives. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, American-style St Patrick's Day, even the Fourth of July - I've seen them all celebrated here by non-Americans. Stores have started setting up special sections for these holidays. 

Today I was in Leipzig, Germany visiting the Christmas market, and was taken aback when I entered a store and saw a sign for Black Friday sales. Et tu, Deutschland?

They've been doing Black Friday sales in the UK for a few years now. But I had not seen this phenomenon on the continent until now. I suppose it makes sense for American chains (or European brands with a heavy presence in the US). They are already doing the sales in their main market so why not do them in Europe too. Likewise for online retailers like Amazon. 

But why not just call them Christmas sales? Why use this term Black Friday? Why on earth is this something you would want to emulate? The frenzied shopping that takes place in the US, as stores open their doors super-early for deep discounts, has seen violence and mayhem. 

Each year people are trampled as the hordes are let into the stores all at once. Each year we get videos circulating showing outrageous behavior. This year's highlights included a woman ripping a vegetable steamer out of a child's hands and a fist fight over discount babycare products. 

Of course the violence is exaggerated by the media and has sparked parodies like the famous Onion article claiming "42 million dead in bloodiest Black Friday on record". And of course don't forget BlackFridayDeathCount.com, which constantly updates the number of Black Friday dead and injured (with actual stats).

It all has a kind of 'Hunger Games' feel to it. Poor people fight it out in Walmarts across the country and the rest of us watch the YouTube videos and laugh. It's gross.

Nobody in Europe seems to be asking for Black Friday to come here. Today my Facebook feed has been filled with people complaining about the fact that it is happening. 

So please, Europe, let's drop this Black Friday thing. And while we're at it, can you just stop with the Thanksgiving stuff and leave it to the Americans? 

Oh, but don't get rid of Halloween! It's my favorite holiday of the year, so that one I'm definitely not complaining about. Even if you do interpret it too literally (every year I have to explain, "it's the decorations that are scary-themed, not necessarily the costumes!").

By the way, most people think that the term 'Black Friday' emerged because it was when retailers needed to have their books 'in the black', ie turning a profit. In fact the origins are shrouded in mystery. It most likely originated from a term used by the Philadelphia Police Department in the 1960s to describe the traffic chaos that came the day after Thanksgiving.

OK, rant over. This blog has been grumpy lately! I promise something more uplifting next time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Halloween actually originated in Ireland and has always been celebrated there. It was just stolen by the Americans and turned into another cheesy celebration and sold back to Europe.