Black Friday

“Do you know about Black Friday?” my American friend asked me last year.

“No,” I said but I was not content to wait for an answer. “Isn’t it when 13th of the month falls on Friday?”

“No, no,” my friend explained. “Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Stores usually give the greatest discounts of the year.”

“Oh,” I said but didn’t give much thought about it. I thought it was just like in China, discounts are everywhere before a holiday. But then, I saw a TV news clip showing people getting trampled by other shoppers at a store in Buffalo. I was shocked. How can this happen in America where there are plenty of goods for everyone?

A scene like this is more likely to occur in places experiencing poverty or war. For instance, Afghan refugees looting shops or Indian rioters laying siege to storehouses. I would never have thought that such madness would occur in the U.S.. Just for buying dirt-cheap goods, Americans are willing to stand the winter chill, sitting outside the store all night long, and then going all out to be the first to get their hands on that new toaster-oven.

I remember my dad teaching us that you shop only for what you need when you need it; it’s stupid to compete with the crowd or take the little benefits given by the sellers; after all, the sellers have already figured out how to make a fortune out of you before pricing the items in the store. I bet if my dad saw the TV news about Black Friday in America, he would shake his head sadly.

Last year’s Christmas sales in Pittsburgh came earlier than the year before. By early November, Christmas decorations were on display in Macy’s, and Christmas carols could be heard in the malls. With so many people shopping during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, I don’t see why people around me still complain about the economic downturn. Similiarly, when I was in the French Quarter of New Orleans last May, I saw tourists flooding the streets all day and night extravagantly drinking, eating, and shopping: it certainly didn’t look like the financial crisis that people in China believe America now is undergoing.

Whether it’s Black Friday or not, shopping seems to play an important role in the American way of life. How can you not be tempted to buy more if you push a gigantic Wal-Mart cart, which can fit at least a Plasma wide-screen TV, between tall shelves stocked with goods made, ironically, in China?

Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America