Imagine if retailers held a nationwide super-spectacular sales day — and no one came.
I don’t mean customers. Picture sales staff, cashiers, and even managers not showing up to open the doors for the usual frenzy of mass, crass, crazy consumerism.
Maybe it’s silly — some would say even un-American — to think that stores wouldn’t open to cash in on a hugely promoted retail bonanza.
Yet here it is: REI, the national purveyor of outdoor gear and sporting goods, says it will no longer participate in the shopping spectacle known as “Black Friday.” This ritual of non-stop door-buster sales now overwhelms Thanksgiving.
This holiday is meant to be a calm, family-oriented time to get away from all the hubbub of life and reflect on our blessings. Yet in recent years, such national chains as Macy’s and Wal-Mart have led a corporate assault on Thanksgiving with a buy-buy-buy blitz of consumer come-ons.
“Rush to the mall,” shout the barrage of Black Friday ads — enticing us to reduce our values to shallow monetary value — i.e., discounted stuff. They’ve turned this contemplative day of thanks into a weekend of worshipping mammon.
“Enough!” says REI.
The national retail co-op with 143 stores and $2.2 billion a year in sales is raising the ethical bar by boycotting Black Friday. Instead of shopping on the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, REI is urging its workers and customers to break out — literally.
Take a walk with family and friends, enjoy a bike ride, visit a public park, and otherwise get outside the soul-suffocating syndrome of constant consumerism.
What a concept: Don’t shop — live. Connect with people, nature, the spirits…and yourself. For more information, go to REI’s special website: www.OptOutside.REI.com.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.