Point-counterpoint: Is it OK to participate in Black Friday sales?

Is participating in Black Friday OK? Two DI columnists debate.

November 15, 2018

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Black Friday is dangerous consumerism

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has long been associated with a number of different ideas in the public. It serves as the busiest shopping day of the year, despite some declining turnout numbers in the last year. But while it does play a strong commercial purpose, the pseudo-holiday also is responsible for inciting violence and exploiting workers.

It’s no secret that Black Friday shopping is a dangerous gamble. Riots, stampedes, and fights are all common occurrences that day. According to Black Friday Death Count, a website that provides a count of confirmed deaths and injuries on the holiday, there have been 10 deaths and 111 injuries since 2006. But the more hidden danger is not in stores but rather in the rampant consumerism that leads to the exploitation of industry workers.

The National Retail Federation put the sales total for last year’s Black Friday at $690 billion. With the excess of spending, it is difficult to know whether you’re buying ethically or not. Fast fashion and similar industries produce dangerous repercussions for both people and the environment: Factories underpay and mistreat their workers as they put out incredibly harmful toxins into the environment. Even online shopping has its dangers. For example, Amazon, one of the most popular places for online shopping, has a history of putting its workers in awful conditions in order to maintain its business model.

Workers around the world are put in dangerous conditions in order to turn out an $8 T-shirt or new technologies and products. Because of this, Black Friday is an outmoded consumerist “holiday” that should no longer exist in the modern world.

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Black Friday is a win-win


So yes, Black Friday was started by retailers to boost their sales and probably their Christmas bonuses. And despite what many people have come to believe, Black Friday was not a term that originated from retailers’ first day “in the black.” The term was actually coined in Philadelphia where thousands of people gathered to watch the Army/Navy game the day after Thanksgiving.

And even though there are misunderstandings around how the term Black Friday began, the biggest shopping day of the year has taken off since its birth in the 1980s. And I couldn’t be happier.

Is it OK to participate in Black Friday sales?

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Once we all get past the irony that the biggest shopping day of the year is the literal day after we all sit with our families and discuss what we are thankful for, think about the bigger picture here. Black Friday is win-win. Shoppers win because they get crazy good deals, and retailers win because they rake in their highest revenues of the year. In 2017, American consumers spent more than $690 billion on Black Friday. 

And it’s not even just about the money. The National Retail Federation reported that in 2017, somewhere between 500,000 and 550,000 people were hired by retailers as seasonal workers. An increase in jobs, and revenue for retailers means a boost in the economy. Hurray.

This Black Friday, let’s all put aside our differences, get out there, and shop for those we care about.

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