Black Friday — the consumer fest of insanely discounted prices on everyday goods and luxury items — has passed. Although we have Black Friday in Europe as well, this was my first time being in the heart of the capitalist celebrations in the U.S.
Truth be told, I didn’t really buy anything besides a pair of ridiculous red boots I’d been eyeing for a while and a bottle of perfume I’d run out of. For these two purchases, I tried to excuse them by saying I would’ve gotten them anyway (which I now realize is a huge privilege).
Honestly, though, Black Friday is a capitalist ploy to make consumers feed into the euphoria of the new. More often than not, Black Friday makes us buy unnecessary products because we think the low prices make the products necessary. In actuality, though, nobody needs two iPhones; one is more than enough.
Black Friday feeds into the anti-capitalist view I try to portray, but even then, I have to face my privileges — I can afford to boycott sales days like Black Friday because I don’t have to rely on them to have a decent quality of life. It’s a privileged standpoint to be able to overindulge on the excess. When you can afford products at their normal prices, sales become an event of buying “extra,” an event of accumulation.
But for many, it’s the total opposite.
The wealthy upper-middle class is not the only group who takes advantage of these absurd sales — lower-income folk also hit the sales, but not in the hopes of acquiring excess. They’re there to buy basic necessities and the occasional luxury item. Yet even those trying to obtain the necessary and not the excessive aren’t safe from the tricks of corporations.
In many cases, the Black Friday sales aren’t what they seem. According to Business Insider, Black Friday isn’t always the best time to score deals — products like outerwear and holiday-themed merchandise are actually more deeply discounted in December. And according to The Atlantic, businesses might increase their prices just before Black Friday to make the sales seem a lot better.
This misdirection affects the consumer directly and not in a good way.
It’s not those who can afford extra items on Black Friday that this affects the most, but rather those who cannot afford the regular items at their normal price. When people are deceived to think a deal is better than usual, they’re being attacked and taken advantage of by corporations.
Black Friday is not for the consumer. It’s for businesses and corporations feeding off the naiveté of consumers. We might think we’re the ones winning when we’re amassing cheap sales items, but in fact, it’s the corporations that triumph the most. This is not exactly something to celebrate.
It would be gullible to assume that getting rid of sales days like Black Friday would fix the problem of wealth inequality, when in fact it is a much deeper problem than just a day of ludicrous discounts. But being more mindful of consumption and wealth and consequently boycotting days like Black Friday is a step in the right direction.
However, this only works if it doesn’t include ridiculing those who have to rely on sales items. Being aware of inequities is an excellent way to combat capitalism’s relentless grip. It also helps to just leave the newest model of the smartphone in the store.
Ottilia Nummelin is a Pitzer College exchange student who’s a Finn from Luxembourg. She thinks those red boots were kind of cute but is also against capitalism.