Black out

It’s Thanksgiving week, which means it’s time to usher in Black Friday—that uniquely American holiday when we celebrate all things shopping by waking up at an ungodly hour to wait in pitch-black iciness outside a Wal-Mart in hopes of snagging a $19 DVD player shipped in from Korea.

Count me out.

If you’re not already familiar with this sacred tradition, Black Friday is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday-shopping season. In an effort to lure shoppers, retailers post insanely ridiculous sale prices on everything from elephant-sized flat-screen TVs to this year’s It Toy.

The idea is to get you into the stores to spend as much money as possible and the term “Black Friday” refers to the beginning of the period in which retailers theoretically stop bleeding money and get sucked into a profitable black hole of consumer madness.

The emphasis here being on madness—embarrassing, greedy madness.

Black Friday is one of those days, along with the Fourth of July and Super Bowl Sunday, on which people suddenly feel as though they have license to act batshit crazy in public—regardless of any potentially disastrous outcomes.

Case in point: In 2008, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death after bloodthirsty shoppers surged the store in a pre-dawn shopping raid.

And for what?

A discounted Tickle Me Elmo doll? A cheaply manufactured diamond pendant? A bare-bones, generic MP3 player?

Perhaps I’m being unfair—maybe that man’s death was the most patriotic act of all:

Someone died so that you may shop.

Regardless, those so-called deals are no bargains. Put away your wallets—just because you drag your turkey-stuffed self out of bed before 5 a.m. is no guarantee you’ll snag a killer sale.

Black Friday should be renamed national Rip-off Day. Most retailers—the big-box stores especially—carry just a few of their so-called “doorbuster” items, so unless you’re at the head of that rowdy Target queue your chances of snagging a $39 camcorder or a $450 off-brand 60-inch high-def TV are practically nil.

But although this disclaimer is usually spelled out in the ad’s fine print, retailers expect you either won’t notice or won’t care and either way you’ll show up to spend some money.

So what’s the alternative? You can follow an opposite course of action and heed Adbusters magazine’s yearly call for a “Buy Nothing Day,” a 24-hour “moratorium” on consumer spending. No Starbucks, no gas, definitely no Sony PlayStation.

But it doesn’t end there. Not only does Adbusters suggest you shut your wallet, it also asks you to turn off your lights, shut down your computer and let your TV fade to black.

What are we—heathens? I mean let’s not get rash here, there’s a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon coming up, so that option is definitely out of the question.

Besides, it’s such an extreme substitute. Is this what we’re reduced to: Act like a fool or turn the calendar back centuries and observe Behave Like a Quaker Day?

Instead, simply avoid the major retailers and patronize small, local stores—not just on Black Friday, but also throughout the entire holiday season.

It’s not that you shouldn’t ever step foot into a Target or Wal-Mart or Best Buy again. Just think twice about rewarding any questionable business practices, and don’t buy into the greed.

Have a little common decency and common sense this holiday season.

Those traits should never be subject to the “while supplies last” fine print.