Courtney Zott / Uncategorized

On Black Friday: Cannibalism and Materialism at Walmart (Courtney Zott)

My dad is in the market for a new TV, and I’m almost fully prepared fiscally, though not quite mentally, to invest in a new camera.

So, after a bit of commercial break brainstorming on Thanksgiving Day, we came to the conclusion that we might as well just stay up with the rest of the depraved Black Friday cannibals that night and go get ourselves these new gadgets. It’d be worth the experience to try, at any rate.

We ambled out the door around 12:30, laughing at my mom’s request for a case of water. Water, Mom? On Black Friday? But otherwise, we were naïve. Unassuming and unaware. Ignorant.

Accordingly, we lasted about twenty minutes in Walmart. Worse, we spent about three-quarters of that time just trying to get to the electronics section. It was a tricky business, finagling our way through that ruthless crowd of need-it-now soccer moms, penny pinchers and bargain fanatics. At one point, I almost got my shins taken out by a shopping cart piled high with god knows what, until the anxious owner’s impatient, “EXCUSE ME!” propelled me quickly out of the way and into a nearby crate of pillow pets. I have a nice bruise on my hip, but I suppose it was either that or death by materialism, which seems to have taken over as the driving force of this world.

What’s happening to humanity? All the while, as my dad and I waded through that bloodthirsty mass of mindless, desperate consumerism, I found myself feeling terrified and appalled. And sad, above all. I felt that if I so much as tripped and fell, not a single soul would help me up. Nobody could — or would — look past their tidy shopping lists, their jumbled shopping carts, their sickening urge to get “it” before somebody else did, no matter who that somebody else was.

According to a report by The National Retail Federation, spending per shopper surged 9.1 percent over last year to an average of almost $400 per customer. Overall, in-store sales increased by 6.6 percent, contributing to a total spending record of $52.4 billion.

Despite a high unemployment rate and risk of prolonged recession, “American consumers have been taking a deep breath and making a decision that it’s O.K. to go shopping again,” Ellen Davis, vice president of the organization, told a New York Times reporter in an article today.

Apparently, however, that decision has been made every year. Sales have consistently increased since the “holiday” began in 2005, according to the report.

We should be proud, right? It’s all in the Christmas spirit. What even is that anymore?

A massive line of people holding tickets for 28” Sansui LCD TVs clogged at least three aisles. I couldn’t tell if they liked the TV more or the price, but I doubt a single one of them would have given up their spot if Lady Gaga herself had been giving a free, naked performance in the parking lot. “Because if you can’t take it home, what’s the point?,” their fraught faces seemed to say.

I had to get out of there, and fast. I felt increasingly claustrophobic and in dire peril of being trapped forever in the herd, similar to being stuck at sea. Or in mud. So my dad and I left empty-handed, a little dazed but no worse for wear.

In the coming days after this failure of a shopping attempt, I’ve begun to notice an obsession with “things” everywhere, albeit to a lesser degree. At dinner with my relatives last night, a good hour of the conversation was spent on the new iPad 2. Yes, it’s out now. You play Bubble Busters, too? Did you know it can take pictures? I just bought the keyboard. Yes, they have keyboards! And so on.

What the hell is happening to humanity?

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