Monday, November 28, 2011

How Bad Do You Really Want That Waffle-Maker?

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

I have nothing against Black Friday. Yes, it is a frenzied ode to our consumerist culture, and I do have something against our consumerist culture – but until we change it, we own it.

I even go shopping on Black Friday – at the one store that sells the clothes my sister likes. I agree that the sales offered allow people to purchase things that they might not otherwise be able to afford. This clothing store’s Black Friday sale allows me to get my sister several items instead of just one, and I like to have multiple presents for people to open. 

It’s more fun that way, and reminiscent of my childhood, when Christmas was the holiday of the year and my parents went into debt every season to provide lots of presents, then spent the rest of the year paying them off. Presents aside, it was just a very fun, non-religious family holiday. I understand the privilege that allowed and allows me to enjoy it, and I am grateful for that.

But I don’t know how happy my sister would be with her gifts if she thought that a store clerk was trampled to death in order for me to purchase them, as happened a few years ago

I don’t know how happy she would be with her gifts if she thought that I had pepper-sprayed other shoppers in order to get the best items, as one woman did this year

And I don’t know how happy she would be with her gifts if she thought I was involved in a mini-riot to get them, as with this year’s $2 waffle-makers


There’s got to be a middle ground. There’s got to be a way in which bargains can be offered so that people who want certain things might be able to purchase them without smashing, stomping, stepping on, suffocating, spraying, and otherwise destroying everything and everyone around them, including the store clerks who are forced to work on a holiday, sometimes overnight, and often with very little to no sleep. 

We have lost it as a consumer culture. We have gotten off track. We have gotten to the point where we are willing to maim or even kill to get a few dollars off of an item. And the culture has not only condoned this, it has encouraged it. 

We’re being set up to believe that we are getting special deals on items that were overpriced to begin with. We’re being set up to believe that one particular item is better than another because it is in “limited supply.” And we’re being set up to believe that we or our loved ones simply must have the latest waffle-maker or Xbox in order to live a complete and satisfying life – or at least have a decent holiday.

I think after-Thanksgiving sales are great. I think that any sale is great, really, because I can’t always afford things at retail, and I know they are marked up in order to eventually be marked down. The problem is that we are not just being sold waffle-makers for $2 – we are being sold a bill of goods, one that leads us to believe that we are truly getting a “deal” worth fighting for.

The truth is that if you can afford to sell waffle-makers for $2 on Black Friday, you can afford to sell waffle-makers for $2 throughout the holiday season. The truth is that if there is a “limited supply” of waffle-makers, that shortage can be easily foreseen and more can be ordered in advance. The truth is that not everyone wants a gift that someone else has been trampled on or pepper-sprayed to get.

And the truth is that we are being manipulated by big retailers and manufacturers who want to get everyone hyped up for the holidays, but who are going about it the wrong way. In fact, they might end up selling more waffle-makers if they priced them reasonably to begin with and acknowledged the fact that their customers are providing them with a complete and satisfying life – not the other way around.