Your Supposedly Discounted Goods
Oh, yes, Black Friday, the day that puts the mental illness of consumers on full display. It is the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, in which major retailers offer promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Buyers arrive in swarms at storefronts, hours in advance of the big-box opening. In some cases, up to a week — a week, people! You would think they were selling tickets to the Wu Tang Clan reunion tour. But no. It’s all so someone can be first at the “supposedly” discounted goods. “Supposedly” because it’s highly doubtful these are well-researched consumers who’ve done much price-checking.
If they had, they would know that coats and luggage are almost never discounted on Black Friday. Many gift favorites like electronics and clothing are priced lower in early to mid-December. Cookware and home accessory prices usually drop at the end of December. Bed linens and towels are at their lowest in January. And for the products that appear to have genuine savings? They’re typically duds, poor performers that retailers are trying to clear off the shelves.
Besides all that, probably the best reason to avoid Black Friday is the extreme violence that takes place. So much so that the shopping day’s Wikipedia entry has devoted an entire section to document the brutality. People have shot, stabbed, and pepper-sprayed each other all in the name of a deal. In 2008, a mob of thousands crushed a Walmart employee to death in their stampede to enter the store. So much for the Christmas spirit.
The easy explanation for this insanity is materialism. However, few people remember to acknowledge materialism’s best friend, scarcity thinking. Scarcity thinking is marked by fluctuating but always lingering desperation. It is present in individuals as well as organizations. It is the cause of hastiness, spastic maneuvering, bad decisions, and defective math. It is what typically has people loosely trading clock units for monetary units. This is largely due to how payment structures are widely set up — dollars per hour, salary per year, etc. We don’t see that there would be any other way. So, we reason (although falsely) that it is “worth” standing in line for a few hours to get a great discount on a dryer. It is worth the extra time of two layovers to get a cheaper flight. It is worth exhausting minutes that employees spend on work-arounds for defective equipment than to buy new machines. There is a sense that there is a lot of time but not a lot of money (hence the scarcity) so not only is the exchange sensible but it is more than “worth” it. Or so it seems.
But those of us who’ve taken the red pill, know after having broken through the Matrix that the exact opposite is true! Money can be multiplied through various means. Yes, it takes skill, luck, and fortitude. On the other hand, it is time that is limited… for all of us, no matter how much skill, luck, or fortitude you have. Do you see?
So, for example, if I paid you $100 per hour, you might be pretty stoked. But if I paid you instead $100 for results, you’d have a game changer. It might still take you an hour to do the work. Alternatively, you might add resources (human or computerized) or simply focus more and move faster, and deliver the same quality in half-time. In which case, you just gave yourself a raise by earning $100 now per half-hour. Zoom out to a week and imagine what you would do with your newly freed up 20 hours! You can potentially continue to work which would double your pay! Or not. Heck, spend it with your kids, the dog, go to the gym, read a book, whatever you want. The notable difference is that units of time are no longer locked in to units of cash. You’ve been liberated. I’m not a millionaire but now that I know this, I’m 100% (or shall we say 99%?) positive that this is how they’re able to stack chips so quickly — and don’t even get me started on passive income. Not because I don’t want to talk about it but because I already wrote a post on the topic. Feel free to check it out here :)
Look, real deal ballers are very famously frugal, but do you see Donald Trump setting up a tent outside of Best Buy at midnight? Don’t be ridiculous, you might say. Why not though? That’s right, it would be a waste of his time. Yet, it’s not a waste of yours? Especially when time is equally finite for both of you? Honestly, is that a matter of income or of self-”worth”? I would argue the latter. You and your time are certainly worth more than to spend it elbowing through frenzied credit card savages. So, instead of doing the usual Black Friday activities, please consider these other options:
- Add a book to your collection, a workshop or training, and get your learn on! A boost in knowledge and expertise can translate to intellectual and creative stimulation, more earning potential, and hey, also some higher quality party conversation.
- Buy from actual makers and support your local economy while you’re at it! Believe it or not, people still craft things in small runs and sometimes even use their hands! It’s true. That means more unique and meaningful purchases. You could be acquiring original works from up and coming poets, painters, jewelers, designers, musicians, a whole array of hard-working small businesses that count on your patronage.
- Participate in “Buy Nothing Day,” an international day of protest against consumerism. Seriously though, it probably won’t change the world but you know what, it’s a good opportunity for individuals to practice good old fashioned financial discipline – at least for a day. You might be surprised how automatically and unconsciously you spend if it weren’t for the unusual challenge of a 24-hour halt.
After all, Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what you already have. Yes, your “stuff.” Also your inner stuff. That which makes you strong, open, imaginative, and generous. To echo the words of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Ramona Peters:
“As a concept, a heartfelt Thanksgiving is very important… It’s important that we give thanks. For me, it’s a state of being. You want to live in a state of thanksgiving, meaning that you use the creativity that the Creator gave you. You use your talents. You find out what those are and you cultivate them and that gives thanks in action.”
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