Full disclosure, as a buy-and-gift local, sustainable shopping geek: I do not participate in Black Friday. (Or Cyber Monday, for that matter.)
So when Melanie asked me to write this blog, I was like okaaaaay. Sure. I can do that.
And after much soul-searching, here’s where I’ve landed: In an era when every shopping decision can feel like a profound moral and ethical conundrum, I am here to reassure you. Your shopping choices do not define you. There is a balance between supporting your local economy and checking off your holiday shopping list.
The buy and gift local dilemma of Black Friday
There’s no shortage of opinion on whether taking advantage of Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday deals is a virtue or a vice.
Plenty of cultural critics have lobbed bombs at the mass—and massive—consumption that dependably precedes the holiday season. Controversies include filling the pockets of multinational corporations, supporting unfair labour practices, and polluting the environment (and arguably our very souls—yikes). Since it’s Black Friday that kicks off our yearly festive buying frenzy, these issues are worth a good think.
This Guardian article suggests a comprehensive list of corporate-driven lies designed to convince us to shop till we drop on Black Friday. The author offers the delightful argument that “shopping isn’t so much a satisfying pastime that boosts the economy as a burning wheel of Ixion on which we are bound until death secures our release.” (Yes, I too had to look up Ixion. And I disagree wholeheartedly with what he says about investment pieces… more on that in my blog post from last year).
But here’s the thing: It’s easy to feel morally superior about Black Friday shoppers whilst perched atop a minimalist Jenga tower of privilege. This Vox article not only offers a succinct history of the day, it lambastes critics who question the moral fibre of Black Friday shoppers, pointing to research showing that people with less social and economic capital are more likely to take advantage of Black Friday sales.
Choice is a privilege. Feeling good about your shopping decisions is also apparently a privilege, and this strikes me as deeply unfair. Unless you’re operating without a budget, you have to make pragmatic calculations about how you spend your money.
Black Friday deals are ok. Just buy and gift local – when you can
And if you can’t, it’s because you can’t.
Buying local isn’t about feeling guilty when you can’t. It’s about choosing a local option when you can—and can is going to mean different things to different people. How you do your holiday shopping is not a question of how “good” you are or can afford to be.
At the heart of every buy-local decision is the question: can I support local small business with this purchase?
Great! Supporting the local economy in Halifax and other parts of Atlantic Canada? Selecting locally made products and gifts that give back? A chance to reduce my carbon footprint? Sign me up!
No problem. I’m pretty sure most people want to support local business. Yes, local food and local gifts sometimes—but not always!—cost more than buying at a large retailer. Local food and gifts are priced fairly; it’s just that cash-crops and mass-produced gift items are artificially cheap. Happily, some local options are actually cheaper than large corporate ones—as discussed in our latest blog about local trees. (You can read more about why imported foods are so cheap here.)
For most of us, making the switch to buying completely local would mean buying carefully and buying less (also a great idea, IMO).
But what does all this have to do with Black Friday and you, dear reader?
THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART. Really, it is.
Discover your local this holiday season
If you can, I’m asking you to access local this holiday season. If you didn’t at all last year, buy one thing from a small independent business. Or if you shopped 15% local last year, try for 20% this year. You get where I’m going. It’s been a crap year of pandemic panic. We need to support each other. (Here’s how.)
I’m also telling you I COMPLETELY understand if your kid wants you to take advantage of the Black Friday laptop deals or the Cyber Monday phone deals. Or if you need to get the best deal possible on winter coats and Christmas turkey. Fill your boots, as we say here in the Maritimes!
Enjoy the holidays, however you choose to celebrate them, and put that big bag of guilt down.
My gift to you is this: As you hopefully whisper your holiday wishes into the unpredictable abyss that is the closing act of 2020, may you experience and practice kindness and understanding. May you spend time in person with your loved ones. May you receive both a gorgeous hand-knit sweater AND give an Xbox Series X.