‘Buy nothing’ Friday: This year’s alternative to the Black Friday frenzy

Black Friday, the phenomenon that the UK imported from the United States, plans to take over Edinburgh on Friday 27th November. Hundreds of shops throughout the city will offer discounted prices and deals, which will allow people to save money and kick-start their festive shopping. As seen in previous years, people will queue for hours in order to be the first one to get a grip of the discounted flat screen TV or buy exclusive-brand clothes for a bargain, even if it means fighting other people to get there first. Last year, VISA Europe announced that £6,000 was being spent every second during the day after the American holiday of Thanksgiving, and this year is not expected to be any different.

But this is a representation of how consumerism has transformed our society; we are willing to wait seven hours in the cold in order to buy appliances and luxuries, and we don’t mind behaving like savages while we do so. We are driven by the desire of having the latest cellphone model or tablet, not stopping to think for a minute why are we doing it. This highlights how shops have been charging extremely high prices for their products throughout the rest of the year, if they are able to discount their goods for this black Friday escapade, and it also damages small business who cannot afford to lower their prices. Although some shops, such as Asda, have already decided to avoid this and instead will offer discount prices and deals throughout the whole festive season, Black Friday is here to stay.

Luckily there is still hope, and a Facebook event titled ‘Buy Nothing Friday’ has already recruited almost nine thousand followers. This group, created by Sam Machin, a student at the University of Edinburgh, proposes instead to hug a friend, ring your parents, or go for a walk. The idea is for members to post alternatives to compulsive shopping, and these include creating your own Christmas cards, going to a charity shop and donating something, or even just smiling! When talking to Sam, he explained to The Student that all he wants to achieve is a day where he can enjoy the company of his friends, and at the same time make people think about what is really meaningful in their lives. When asked about what was wrong about Black Friday, he claimed it was ‘the epitome of wastefulness and meaningless consumption’; explaining that corporations fight each other for bargains and shorten their discount periods, while it becomes an unsafe environment for retail workers to work in, and people end up buying items that they will probably throw away very fast anyway.

One could argue that there is something positive to it, as it allows people with low incomes to buy things that otherwise they would not be able to do, maybe giving the opportunity to children to get that toy that they really wish for. But Sam finds the fault in this argument, saying ‘Buy Nothing Friday is in opposition to the purchases people are making, which includes low income people. If we reassessed as a society the wants and desires we have for products, we would all have much more disposable income’. But it doesn’t end there. For Machin, his campaign is also about making a political statement. Big retailers who offer discounts are ‘making poor quality cheap goods and not paying their fair share of tax’, which makes it unacceptable and addresses the need for a general consciousness about this as well.

If this has not convinced you, and you still plan getting involved in Black Friday, try to think about your actions while in shops, and be considerate. Behave as you would anywhere else. ‘Shopping can turn people against each other, and discount opportunities are very divisive’, claims Sam. Why not cook a nice meal, spend the day with those you love and feel better for it at the end of the day?

As Black Friday approaches, Edinburgh offers an alternative in resisting the bargains and doing something rewarding instead.

Image: Flickr: <Ronramstew>

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