Why I don’t give a crap about Black Friday

It’s almost (at the time of writing, of course) THAT time of year again. That time when the populance descend on supermarkets and retail shopping parks like lunatics and tear the places apart in their determination to feel smug about “saving” money. I am of course referring to Black Friday, the (now) annual premier shopping ‘event’ on the consumer calendar.

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From what I understand, Black Friday has been around for a long time in America. Here, in the UK, we’ve only had the pleasure of hosting it since 2014. ASDA (our British branch of Walmart) attempted to get a Black Friday thing going in 2013 and this was the last of the low-key efforts before it finally took off the following year. It was (rightfully) criticised as “Americanism” and that’s no offence directed at any of you American-based readers. It’s just that a lot of people over here tend to get a little disgruntled over our culture being overwritten by American traditions, entertainment and celebrities.

(Oh, and woe betide anybody who spells a word the American way when you are based in the UK!)

2014 was the first big year for Black Friday in the UK and it was – in my opinion – a complete embarassment that exposed the very ugliest, mindless and sheep-like behaviour in people. Shoppers got so swept up in trying to grab the bargains before anybody else that police had to be called in to deal with grid-locked traffic and threatening behaviour in stores. There were even assaults! Can you imagine fighting somebody over a cut-price TV? I don’t understand it but I guess there are people out there who don’t even need to imagine the concept…because THEY were involved! It was so bad that ASDA didn’t take part in 2015’s Black Friday sales due to the negative publicity and general chaos that occured in its stores.

The madness was big news in 2014 and you would have hoped that it had ended there but this is the real world (unfortunately) and so Black Friday continued to grow and grow because increasing amounts of money and fatter sales figures were involved. Now we have this big beast of a shopping event that is advertised well in advance and has even become a Black Week for some retailers. You can even get Black Friday deals on non-tangible products such as broadband contracts.

But I’m here to tell you why I simply don’t give a crap about Black Friday and refuse to be swept up in the hysteria and hunting for “bargains”.

Firstly, there is only ONE type of person that actually “wins” during Black Friday: the person who was already in the market for a specific product and waits until Black Friday to secure it at a discount. It’s the person who was already going to buy an item and spend money on it.

All these people who get in their cars, battle for parking spaces, then hit the stores and load up their credit cards with heaps of purchases that they hadn’t previously planned? Congratulations, you’ve lost. You’ve been played like a fiddle by the monstrous marketing machine that sits behinds the scenes, steam belching from its pipes with every bellow of laughter. Because here’s the thing: you haven’t saved ANY money if you buy shit that you weren’t even going to buy before you saw it with a Black Friday sticker slapped on the box. That applies to ALL sales and store reductions during the year. If you score a product with an RRP of £50 for £30, you haven’t saved £20. What you’ve done is spend £30 that you otherwise wouldn’t have. You’re worse off AND you’ve jumped when the big businesses and marketing men have cried “jump!”

Fuck that shit – seriously.

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One for any American readers out there (the Thanksgiving joke doesn’t really translate well here in Britain).

Now, some people might read my view on all this and call me a killjoy or a boring fuck with a superiority complex. That’s fine. Go out and fill up the boot of your car with “deals”. But be prepared to take the credit card bills or shortfall in your available bank balance on the chin when an unexpected expense crops up. “But I have loads of money – I can AFFORD to go big on Black Friday,” I hear another person argue (all of these imaginary voices in my head aren’t healthy). Well, that’s fine too but I hope you’re happy with being the little, predictable bitch of the retailers. I also hope that all the importance that you’re attaching to those hard-fought-for material prizes goods, and all that consumerism that you’re gorging on, isn’t just a diversion – a distraction – from the real problems and challenges in your life. You’d be amazed at how quickly a new TV or iphone loses its sparkly lustre…

When I see the footage of people queuing for miles outside of shops, or crowds of feverish shoppers shoving their way into a store, it just strikes me as embarassing. And the raised aggression has no excuse. So you missed out on the last one; big deal – it’s just the way it is. Don’t lower yourself to clawing at somebody else and trying to rip a product out of their hands. Imagine that the roles were reversed; would YOU want some crazed person launching themselves at YOU and attempting to prise something from your arms? No, I didn’t think so.

I must also spare a thought for the shop workers during Black Friday! I have heard all sorts of stories about verbal and even physical abuse aimed at retail employees because something was out of stock or because the queue to pay was too long. Some of it is simply outrageous – customers acting like rabid, wild animals fighting over the last piece of meat clinging to the bones of a dead beast. People working in shops aren’t paid enough to deal with this shit. They don’t get any sort of bonus or extra pay for enduring abuse. Their job is to serve you at the pay point or fill the shelves. It isn’t to magic-up another batch of cut-price blenders which doesn’t exist, or to magic you to the front of the queue – it’s to perform the same roles that they would on any other given shift, for the same pay. There is absolutely zero excuse for losing your rag with store employees or treating them like second-rate pieces of shit for working a minimum wage job. Shame on the business owners too for facilitating the Black Friday insanity and putting their employees on the front lines where the furious customer is “always right” (they really aren’t).

All of this aside, I really don’t want to chase material gains. Yes, I still buy things but I’ll weigh up whether I actually NEED to buy something and if I do still want it? Then I’ll just buy it anyway, not wait for Black Friday or some other sale.

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[Source]
I see horrific traffic congestion in my town all the time at the local retail shopping park – lines upon lines of stationary cars struggling to squeeze in. Next comes the driving-around-and-around-for-ages-to-find-a-space game which can only end with an aggressive play where a car speeds into a vacated spot before another waiting car can do the same. Horns blare and yummy-mummies (who clearly don’t need to work on a Friday…) tear up the parking zones in bloated SUVs or excessively powerful Range Rovers. Then comes the shopping itself…the crowds, the queues, the being rammed by other people’s trollies…

And this is all on a normal week! Black Friday is even worse. I can only ask myself, “why on earth would anybody put themselves through all of that?”. Even sitting at home, why would I want to spend hours on overloaded websites, trying to snag a cheap videogame or something from a Black Friday sale? As I’ve already said, fuck that shit.

In conclusion, Black Friday is – in my opinion – a really bad thing. If you want to see the very worst of western consumerism and people giving too many fucks about insignificant things, then Black Friday is the time to see those things at their very peak.

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong

If you’ve read this blog for a while, then you may be familiar with my posts on the subject of materialism. Unfortunately, it seems that I wasn’t completely sorted on my definition of materialism nor my use of terminology.

I’m not taking back anything that I’ve previously said on the burden of materialism, the fallacy of happiness being defined by material goods or the healthy practice of cutting down on materialism. All of that? I still stand by it. I still believe in it.

But I certainly put my foot in it when I accused my sister of being materialistic. I was being casual about it but she didn’t take it well and, initially, I couldn’t see what I’d said wrong. As it turned out, I’d got my terminology completely wrong. Y’see, she is easily advertised and sold to (by her own admission!) and can’t help spending, spending, spending on stuff that she really doesn’t need. Really, this is better described as consumerism.

From Collins:
“Consumerism is the belief that it is good to buy and use a lot of goods. “

Of course, you might still describe my sister’s actions as “materialism”…

From Collins:
Materialism is the attitude of someone who attaches a lot of importance to money and wants to possess a lot of material things.”

BUT, I specifically used the word “materialistTIC” and it slowly dawned on me that there might be some differences between “materialistic” and “materialism”…after being (angrily) informed by my sister of what it means to be materialistic. A great many of us are guilty of materialism after all, but a materialistic attitude is a bit different and not necessarily something that comes hand-in-hand with materialism itself.

She was upset by me describing her as materialistic because being materialistic is to put material items and possessions above people and experiences. By her own admissions, she can’t help spending money and buying excessive amounts of clothes and other stuff BUT she doesn’t put her stuff above the people in her life.

And I – of all people – should have known that.

But instead, I was an asshole, trying to throw about my “wisdom”.

So I was wrong, and that’s the big takeaway from this post. It’s important to be able to listen to the criticism of others and review your own actions/words. It’s okay to say, “you know what? I was wrong there.” But, unfortunately, it’s often much easier (and satisfying) to forge onwards and refuse to admit that you made a mistake; refuse to acknowledge that there is even the slightest outfield chance that you weren’t right.

Because we’re all wrong a LOT of the time. We just need to be open to this fact and be willing to take it on the chin.

 

Materialism Update: too many trainers and killer Converse?!?

It’s been some time since I made my post on the affliction of materialism and my desire to move away from it; to cut down on what I own and buy. If you’re expecting some sort of big results on my part then you might be disappointed however. On a positive note, I don’t feel as if I have accrued any more stuff. I’ve sold a hell of a lot of things since that post and managed to offset any new purchases by getting rid of other things. The “one in, one out” philosophy at work.

To give myself a bit more credit, I do feel that I own a little less stuff but because of the way my things are stored, the situation doesn’t look any different visually. I’m going to keep chipping away at this but for today, I’m going to be talking about one specific area of senseless materialism: trainers. Or sneakers if you are reading this in the US of A.

A needlessly excessive collection of footwear is a criticism usually levelled at women but men aren’t immune to this form of fashion consumerism. I have six pairs of trainers which might not seem like a huge deal to some of you but, as far as I am concerned, it’s five pairs too many.

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(excuse the stains on the fronts of the grey Crosshatches – I’d just been scrubbing some brake dust stains from the material and they were still damp)

I didn’t use to be this way at all. One pair of trainers was enough for me. But then I discovered that I enjoyed collecting trainers that caught my eye, specifically bright blue ones as you can see. I didn’t pay full price for any of these, mind. We have a clothes outlet here in the UK called TK Maxx which sells designer brands at a large discount on account of the items being last season’s trends or discontinued lines that other retailers have gotten shot of. There are usually only one or two examples of most things and the stock is often completely different each time you visit which is both an upside and a downside.

I bought most of the trainers in the above picture from TK Maxx at 50% or higher discount versus the RRP which felt like a steal. Of course, I soon realised that it wasn’t really a saving when I didn’t need to spend any money on trainers in the first place. It was reality check time. I asked myself, “what the fuck are you doing?” and placed a ban on buying any new trainers – a ban I have happily stuck to.

Worse still, I was terrified to wear any of these trainers in case they got dirty or damaged – completely contradicting their purpose. I would wear them carefully then feverishly clean them up as soon as I was home, trying to preserve their new-ness. The exception are the battered grey Crosshatches in the bottom-right of the picture. I have replaced the insoles numerous times and even superglued them back together in order to get them to last as long as possible. I didn’t intend for them to ever reach this state but I have to wear something when I leave the house!

I decided that I was set for many years with this stock of trainers. As well as banning myself from buying any more, I have vowed to run them ALL in and make them go the distance, just like the grey Crosshatches (which I’m sure are on death’s door at this point). Time to kill off the obsessive perfectionism while I’m at it! Footwear is meant to be worn, not stored carefully and treated like antique collectables.

The next pair in line to become my “daily” trainers and get properly used will be the Converse All-Stars but I’ve always been wary of wearing these bastards because of the absolutely deadly lack of grip provided by the soles. These have been worn considerably more than any of my flashy blue kicks but even so, they never seem to wear in properly. I frequently find myself sliding on smooth surfaces or slipping on shiny store floors.

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Beware the soles of doooooooom

And as if to prove their vindictive intentions, I’ve slipped over in public for real while wearing these fucking things. It was only a slightly damp, tarmac path on a gentle slope but walking down said path felt like walking on ice. Needless to say, I stacked it and was lucky not to damage my back. Also lucky that not many people saw it!

So it was that I spent my precious time wisely and sat in front of the computer, asking Google, “why do I have no grip when wearing Converse?”. I didn’t expect a proper answer but the internet came up trumps and revealed the reason that Converse All-Stars are a one-way ticket to public humiliation and potential injury. Apparently, the soles are not 100% rubber – they come with a felt coating that doesn’t ever completely disappear and it’s this coating that causes a lack of grip. By reducing the rubber content in the soles, Converse can be imported as “slippers” and avoid a good chunk of import tax! So, to sum up: big name fashion item (that isn’t exactly cheap to buy anyway) is sold by a big name company that exploits a loophole in order to save a few pennies. I’ll put that one under the ‘Why am I not surprised?’ category in my mental filing system.

Giving Materialism the boot

It’s been a short while since I lasted posted but unfortunately, I had a small dosage of writer’s block. Additionally, I am also suffering with My-Back-Is-Fucked-itis 2: The Sequel which, let me tell you, is not enjoyable. To snatch a silver lining from a particularly black and moody stormcloud, I am now off work for a few days in order to recover and this means I have some time to get my writing back on.

So let’s fucking do this.

Today I am going to talk about materialism, specifically my determination to kick it to the gutter. It’s an affliction that one doesn’t recognise even when it’s right before their eyes and there are many reasons for this. Further, materialism is also widely classed as a negative personal value since it contributes little to your life. Obviously, a little materialism isn’t necessarily something to get freaked out about but as with all things in life, there has to be balance and moderation or else it is probable that another department in your life is out of whack.

mag1For me, the first reason that I am materialistic is because I’m a hoarder; a magpie who loves shiny things. Even worse, I am a big geek with a large collection of videogames, books, DVDs and all that shit. With the videogames, I was once obsessed with ensuring that I picked up collector’s editions, original prints and complete (i.e boxed with all original instructions, paperwork etc.) copies with the view that I would eventually get around to playing them all “some day” (such a magical phrase!). Problem is though, I can easily spend over a hundred hours on a good role-playing game so the reality is, I am never going to get around to playing everything I have bought meaning that at least 80% of my collection sits on shelves or in storage crates, gathering dust. There’s also the question of replayability and whether I would REALLY ever revisit something I’ve already beaten.

Moving onto books, it’s pretty much the same thing. I have a burning need to make sure that I have the first edition hardback copies in excellent condition. It costs more money and those hardbacks take up a LOT of space. The main problem with a swollen bookshelf is that I am unlikely to revisit a large chunk of those books even if I enjoyed them. For as many books as I have read, there is an ocean of other good reads out there and I intend to dip my toes in that ocean rather than remaining in my literary comfort zone. Also, great books that rely on incredible plot twists or mystery tend to blow their load like a male pornstar on that first read and as a result, often sacrifice their ability to provide the same rush on a repeat reading. It’s okay to say that you enjoyed these books but not revisit them. One such example that immediately springs to mind (and has ended up in my growing stack of stuff to get shot of) is Stephen King’s The Outsider. This was a fantastic page-turner but once you know what happens then the mystery is gone.

DVD’s are another space-waster and I tend to keep what I think I would 100% watch again but as I look through my collection, I find so many that are covered in dust and haven’t been viewed in several years, despite my best intentions. Again, it’s okay to say that you enjoyed a movie but keeping copies of every single DVD around “just in case” hasn’t turned out to be a great idea.

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A tiny snapshot of my videogame hoarding. These shelves are two layers deep and full of stuff I haven’t inserted into a console in years.

There is a second reason that materialism has crept up on me over the years and this is where I have to simply cut the bullshit and get straight to the point in true Unfiltered Opinion style. I collect things because it distracts from my real problems. Materialism is akin to a mask or smokescreen with the items and collections providing an illusion of comfort and something to waste away your time and attention on rather than dealing with real life issues.

With this in mind, I have decided that now is the time for an utterly brutal clear-out. I want a tidier, more streamlined living space that leans more towards minimalism. There is also a lot of money tied up in some of these things, especially the videogames, some of which have appreciated in value over the years thanks to a buoyant collector’s market. And having more money is always a helpful thing. Y’see, aside from the obsessions I have already spoken about, I also collect trading cards and have an appetite for performance cars, both of which aren’t cheap interests. I would much rather have just the one type of nerdy collecting habit so that I can focus on my car and my own life. As I said, some materialism isn’t necessarily bad but it has to be moderated and if that means cashing in on several defunct hobbies/collections in order to reduce it down to just the one then so be it.

Of course, anybody who has tried to do this before knows that letting go of shit is difficult if you have developed the hoarder mentality. Sentimentality is one of the biggest hurdles but I find that guilt over throwing out gifts or old presents is the tougher obstacle. On top of these nasties, you are also dealing with the fear of not being able to acquire X item ever again once it’s gone as well as trying to break free of this detrimental mindset of running away from root problems to bury your head in material possessions.

So I scoured the internet and various blogs to find the best tips for slaying materialism and leading a more minimalist life. Here is what I have compiled thus far; the wisdom that I will continually be referring to while I attempt to let go of stuff.

  • Love or associated memories of a person/event are not in the items themselves. They are in us and our memories. Taking and archiving a photo of an item before getting rid of it is enough.
  • Worst case scenario: I can always buy something again if I really need it down the line.
  • Keeping useful items to save wasting them is a waste in itself. A waste because other people could be using those items.
  • Ask “if I didn’t have this item, how much would I pay to get it?”. If the answer is “nothing” then you can let go of it because it is worth “nothing” to you.
  • Does it add any value to my life? Do I feel any kind of spark when holding the item? If not then I am simply stuck holding onto the past.
  • Always keep your ultimate life goals and dreams in mind. If these items won’t help you get there and don’t bring any joy then they can go.
  • If you own too much stuff then your stuff will own YOU.

So I’m going to give this a go. At the time of typing out this post, I have already piled up a load of stuff that I never thought I would let go of and despite the fact that it is still here in the house, I honestly have no regrets about pulling these items out and have no itch to put them back before it’s “too late”. Some stuff is already listed on ebay and I have many more areas to scrutinise and collections to slim down.

I have come to firmly believe that materialism is a bad thing and one of the largest problems in Western society that is rarely spoken about in the mainstream. Probably because the mainstream is so busy trying to sell us more crap and ‘fashionable’ products that won’t really enhance our wellbeing – just keep us drugged up on entertainment and gadgets so that we remain content and believing that we are happy (we aren’t).

Tried this yourself? I would love to hear about your experiences with battling materialism and the methods you used.