‘Tis a season to shop

As Americans slowly digest the turkey from Thanksgiving, one holiday has come to an end, and another holiday season unofficially begins. The day after Thanksgiving, traditionally and mysteriously known as “Black Friday,” is the start of America’s intense 31-day shopping spree leading to Christmas. This year has been no different. With the newest Playstation, scooters and mechanical dogs being all the rage, hordes of shoppers were out searching for deals. Though consumerism itself is not to blame, as it has helped fuel the prosperous U.S. economy, Americans all too often take it to an unhealthy extreme.
Despite the large sums of money that will be spent this holiday season, retailers are concerned about the level of sales. Faulting the volatility of the stock market, higher interest rates, increasing energy costs and a general slowdown in consumer spending, projections show only a 3 percent to 4 percent jump in sales, as opposed to last year’s 7 percent. Some retailers even cite the continuing saga of the presidential elections in Florida as hindering sales growth. Overall, retailers have no basis to complain. A 3 percent or 4 percent jump is still impressive, and an early projection estimated that consumers will spend a total of $198 billion in November and December.
This craze for bargain prices and the desire to be the first to own the newest, hottest items out there has led to fanatical actions, such as people camping overnight in parking lots, or arriving at stores at 5 a.m. in search of bargains. Retailers did nothing to dissuade them, opening their doors early and offering bargains that few could match.
Fortunately, not everyone is buying into this hype. The Media Foundation, which runs the Web site www.adbusters.org, has spent the past few years sponsoring Buy Nothing Day, which falls on Black Friday. Though it has yet to catch on in a big way, this day is dedicated to the fighting of consumer culture and the hope that people will realize their herd mentality as they head out to shop.
In this holiday season, many fail to realize that there are more valuable things than running about searching for items to shower on friends and family members. Retailers, advertisers and others caught up in a world of material possessions have created the idea that to truly be happy you must have new toys to play with. People that do see through this false idea still find it hard not to conform when their families wake up early and head for the stores. As this season of shopping moves into full swing, we can only hope that people will recall what this season truly is about, and not what advertisers and retailers have made it out to be.