To Hell With Black Friday

On Black Friday, Noah Brand has two words of advice: just don’t.

People complain about commercialized holidays, ones like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day that seem, in practice, to be trumped-up excuses to spend money on crap nobody needs. And yet the same people will, for reasons surpassing understanding, observe the living hell out of Black Friday.

Black Friday is a holiday celebrating nothing, literally nothing, other than shopping. It is entirely recursive, a holiday held in observance of itself. Stores do special hours and sales, but can’t put anything on the posters other than the fact that they’re doing special hours and sales. It literally fails to rise to the level of those Presidents’ Day ads where Washington and Lincoln endorse saving 20% on a mattress.

There are a number of different religious observances that fall during this season, but I’m not aware of a single one of them for which Black Friday is an appropriate kickoff event. For those that celebrate nothing more sectarian than a general respect for generosity, goodwill, and togetherness, Black Friday is if anything even worse. There is simply no observance or interpretation of the holiday season that is well-served by a celebration of naked greed so ugly that it feels like someone put the Grinch in charge of the Whoville Civic Planning Commission.

Never believe anyone who tells you that Black Friday is called that because it’s the first day in a year that stores turn a profit. That’s a story made up by retail associations to paint themselves as the victims and try to reclaim a name they tried and failed to bury. It’s a name that comes from working people and cops, the folks on the ground who have to deal with the real-world logistics of this mass psychosis. The traffic jams, the checkout lines, the crowd-crazed individuals whose moral calculus has, just for an hour or two, shifted to the point where their common regard for their fellow human beings now ranks below their desire for a musical reindeer toy.

Don’t be part of it. Shop online. Shop evenly and gradually over the next month. Don’t shop at all. Make gifts, donate to charity as gifts, forgo gifts entirely. Do anything other than mobbing some poor damned store staffed with poor damned people who do not need you adding to their misery. Yes, no single raindrop believes itself responsible for the flood, but you, unlike a raindrop, have a choice. Make a better one.



About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. As a retail worker, I find black friday to be literally the worst idea ever come up with by our society. It’s torture to work retail during this season and has actually made me despise the holidays.

  2. I don’t shop during black Friday because I remember an article where a poor man who worked at a Wal-mart was trampled to death by the customers. What happened was there was a giant crowd outside the store waiting to get in as the doors did not open, then some assholes in the back began to push the people in front of them, causing a domino effect which made the people at the front press up against the door. In due time the doors broke inward and everyone rushed inside, and the guy was basically walked right over while everyone just went about. I just couldn’t believe it, no body stopped.

    Now, the only time I would dare to shop during something like this is on December the 26, boxing day. Why? Chapters gives great deals then, and every time I went there it is never as bad as Black Friday, the place ain’t over crowded and the employee’s are still in good spirits.

  3. I agree with you. Black Friday is a celebration of consumerism at its worst. Way too many people have lost sight of what’s really important. They are literally fighting to save a few dollars on something that will only bring them short term satisfaction. I wish that more people would put this time and energy into helping other people or improving their communities, but that doesn’t seem to be the American way right now.

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