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.

Don’t buy a Dishwasher

dishwasher-4I know, right? An extremely random topic to concoct a post on (even for this blog) but hear me out. This might well be a public service announcement of sorts.

Or I’m chatting a load of bollocks and you will continue to rely on your dishwasher.

If there’s one kitchen-based chore that everybody dreads having to do and will avoid at all costs, it’s emptying the dishwasher. That’s the situation in our house at least. And it got me thinking: why do we put ourselves through it? Why do we knowingly and willingly load up these appliances with our dirty dishes, leave it to do its thing and then huff and puff our way into the kitchen late in the evening to FINALLY empty the damn thing lest the cupboards run dry of essentials such as plates and glasses?

For many women, it’s to avoid the sink and the effect on their hands that repeated washing-up sessions can have over a period of time. For men such as myself, I think it’s laziness. We don’t want to wash up. Have you seen the average single male’s abode? But women can wear rubber gloves to (mostly) protect their hands. As for us blokes? We need to stop being so damn lazy and pitch in – just get the job done. We aren’t beneath cleaning up after a meal.

The REAL reason that a dishwasher is so appealing is the convenience. There’s no standing at the sink, scrubbing pans or plates. You just load it up throughout the day, kick back while it does all of the cleaning for you and then empty it later. I get that; I really do. But the thing about convenience is that it rarely benefits you in the long term; it’s all about the instant gratification and relief at avoiding work. Convenience food for example is tasty as fuck but it’s bad for you in regular doses and gets you out of prepping a proper meal.

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It’s not that bad – honest.

But convenience is what we seem to be all about these days. Dishwashers used to be a luxury appliance but now they are a standard feature of a kitchen. Heaven forbid it breaks down though (more on that in a moment) and you have to remember how to wash up in the sink. For some people, this is a genuine disaster. My father is an appliance engineer and has dealt with customers who are complaining that the dishes are piling up by the sink because the dishwasher is broken and they can’t cope. You feel like giving these people a good smack in the face and instructing them to just deal with it. Surely they won’t die from having to temporarily revert to ye olden days of using a scrubbing brush or sponge in the sink?

But back to convenience. When you are merrily filling the dishwasher up with the remains of your breakfast, lunch and dinner (‘Tea’ to us Brits), do you know what you are actually doing? You are delaying the inevitable and just postponing the work – not eradicating it altogether. It reminds me of a quote from Terminator 3:

“You only postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable.”

So you’ve been avoiding the washing-up all day but there’s no escape from having to empty an absolutely loaded dishwasher.

It’s far faster to simply wash up after each meal. There’s less to clean if you do it that way and it takes a matter of minutes to get it done.

Plus you are saving money. A dishwasher is more than just an initial outlay of cash, remember. You have to buy tablets, rinse aid and salt. It becomes yet another object of constant maintenance in your home – another ongoing cost that never ends. And when it breaks down (which it will), it will cost more money to repair or – worst case scenario – replace altogether. Old-school dishwashers didn’t suffer so much in this respect as they were built to last but the current stuff is cheaply-engineered crap designed to satisfy rampant consumerism that demands everything NOW at bargain basement prices. You will get what you pay for and there’s no way your dishwasher will last fifteen or twenty years like your parents’ might have done.

This cost factor is probably the biggest issue here because you don’t really need a dishwasher do you? But those tablets and bottles of rinse aid all add up over time. A 60-pack of Finish tablets is currently £9.00 on the ASDA UK website for example. Let’s say that you put the washer on once a day (it could even be more) and that’s six packs that you will need to buy over the course of a year, totalling £54.00. Over five years, that’s £270.00. £540.00 over a decade. Obviously, prices go up and down and there are different brands available blah, blah, blah but that’s a lot of money to avoid washing up by hand and we haven’t even factored in rinse aid, the initial purchase price, repair costs or even how many dishwasher units you would have had to buy during that ten-year span. And yes, you could also point out that our lives are loaded with such compounding costs and you would be correct. But we really should look to eliminate as many as possible if we want more money in our wallets to do better and more enjoyable things with.

My point is this: for the sake of washing up a few plates, glasses and mugs after each meal, you can save yourself a load of money and hassle. In my eyes, it’s a no-brainer but maybe I’ve just over-thought this. But the next time you are moaning about emptying the dishwasher or arguing over who should do it, just remember that convenience is a double-edged sword.

Shaving your wallet as well as your face

I’ve always gone for the clean-shaven look on my face but recently, I decided to give it up. The main motivator for change was the fact that I also decided to cut my hair down real short and keep it that way. I can blame premature baldness/hair loss for that one – something that isn’t exactly welcome at the age of twenty-eight. I’d been stuck in a routine of allowing what was left to grow wildly out-of-control before getting it tamed at the local barbers but as one of the ladies there sagely put it, you just have to accept that the grass sometimes just won’t grow anymore. A basic cut there was costing me £7.50 a visit so just chopping it all off myself at home would already save me money on top of having a more honest, no bullshit number two all over .

But I didn’t want to have a smooth baby-face with such a hair “style” so keeping my facial hair as rough (tamed) stubble was the next decision I made. Awaken my inner Jason Statham, I thought, and get the ladies feeling a little moist around my newfound badass image (don’t worry: I did wake up and have a laugh at myself afterwards).

Back in the land of reality, there was a secondary motivation for rejecting the clean-shaven look that was of greater import than provoking a damp gusset: escaping the ritual of buying replacement razor blades. As both men AND women know, razor blade refills are an unwelcome feature on any shopping list. Scandalously expensive, rarely on promotion and roughly the same price everywhere (no matter how savvy you are with shopping around), they are one of the marketing men’s most diabolical creations. Like inkjet printers and water filter jugs, razors are one of those disgusting false economies where the base hardware (in this case, the razor itself) is yours for a reasonable price but once you’re suckered in, the refills will savage your wallet. It doesn’t feel good to be trapped in this commercial machine and a slave to the scalping tactics of these businesses.

For years I have used Gillette’s Fusion Proglide series of razors and I have always been happy with their performance but the blade refills are NOT cheap. A quick check on trusty Amazon yields a pack of six for £15.94, an apparent markdown on an RRP of £21.00…for SIX blades.

CaptureGillette

Ah, our old friend, Gillette…the company who caused a major stink by telling us that we have failed as men and must change our ways. Regardless of whether you believe that controversial ad campaign to be legit or a devilish marketing ploy to thrust the brand into the public eye, there’s no denying that Gillette are hypocrites with no moral superiority to anybody else. Frankly, I’ve been an utter mug and given them my money for far too long, dancing to the beat of their drum.

This is the company that tells us to quit objectifying women even while they are encasing attractive females in latex and plastering the Gillette brand across their shiny bottoms:

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They encourage these false consumer economies that result in untold levels of waste when you look at razor blade packaging and all of these refills being sent to a hole in the ground where they will probably outlive the men who dutifully replaced them at Gillette’s recommended intervals.

They are a company that continually add new lubricant strips or gimmicks to their razors complete with attention-grabbing names such as “Turbo”, “Champion” or even “nitro” in order to turn us into braindead consumer-shaped sheep. If the previous iteration of the Mach 3 razor was all you needed for the “perfect shave” then why do we need a Mach 3 Turbo Champion Nitro Elite Proshield+ upgrade? Because new COLOURS and gimmicks such as the flexball “technology”.

I can’t justify the amount of money I have invested into blades and updated razors. All I can do is apologise to myself and admit that it was down to pure laziness and an unwillingness to try something new. As you can probably deduce from the preceeding rant, I was thrilled to give Gillette and disposable blades the middle finger and escape to freedom. I did what I should have done a long time ago and bought an electric razor.

So I opted for the Phillips One Blade, a compact electric razor with interchangeable combs for maintaining one’s facial hair at the desired length. Sure, you are supposed to replace the heads on these razors every six months but I’m not going to buy into that bullshit. I know from others that they last a lot longer than that. One problem that I can’t avoid however is that the razor only came with 1mm, 3mm and 5mm attachments. After a bit of experimentation, I arrived at a conclusion: 3mm was too long while 1mm was too short. No biggie though – you can after all purchase the ‘missing’ comb sizes individually. A piece of featherweight plastic likely manufactured overseas at a cost of a few pence…

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“Would you take £20 for it, mate?” (an ebay rant)

Ebay: I love it. Most of the things I buy come from Ebay because why bother travelling to and hunting around in physical stores when I can just hit up the world’s top auction site, type in what I’m after and smash that “Buy It Now” button to acquire it? Usually at a cheaper price than a real store can offer the same item too. Now don’t get me wrong: the death of physical retailers isn’t something I’m happy about but at the same time, my money and my time are valuable assets so why should I expend a greater amount of either just to keep a brick ‘n mortar store in business? Businesses need to appeal to ME and woo ME in order to get ME to open my wallet.

I’d make an exception for friendly indie stores because those places can be more than just shops. They can be inviting places with great atmospheres and knowlegable people. And I can’t deny that I enjoy rooting through shelves/bins for hidden gems or things that I have been after for ages. It’s the retail version of treasure hunting. But as for large, national or global chains? Fuck them. As somebody who works in retail myself, I have the inside line on how crappy these organisations are to work for and how they can only offer great deals at the expense of spending on adequate staffing, security, resources and premises maintenance.

But I’m getting off-track here aren’t I? Additionally, why am I talking about buying stuff and shopping experiences when I have already spoken about giving materialism the heave-ho?

Well, I’m actually talking about selling on Ebay as opposed to buying. I had to talk about the positive side of Ebay to begin with y’see because where there is a Yin there is most certainly a Yang. As an Ebay seller, you definitely feel a lot more of the Yang. Selling on Ebay is fantastic because for all its faults and vocal detractors, Ebay retains the largest audience for your unwanted shit and provides the best chance of getting money for it. I have made thousands of pounds which has (hopefully!) offset a lot of what I have spent on Ebay during my membership to the site.

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Old Ebay logo FTW [source]
But there are many, many drawbacks to the selling experience. I’m only going to focus on the one today though because otherwise, I would still be typing this post tomorrow morning, bleary-eyed, dry of throat and sleep deprived. What I want to briefly rant about today are stupid, ignorant buyers, specifically the messages they send.

Ebay is definitely more about the quick and easy fixed-price “Buy It Now” listings these days and has lost a lot of the carboot/auction house novelty that it once had. Sometimes though, it’s difficult to guage the current market value on your stuff when recent sold examples have finished with wild variations in the price(s) paid. It’s at times like this that I simply go the classic auction route and let the buyers decide how much something is worth. There are other reasons to choose the auction format over Buy It Now of course but the main advantage – as I see it – is to seek that current market value. After all, anybody can list anything for whatever wild price they pluck out of thin air and if said item happens to be rare or uncommon then others will follow suit and use that price as the basis for their own. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the buyers are prepared to pay those prices and so the auction format can help you scythe through the BS and cut to the reality.

At the end of my auction descriptions, I always sign off with the following message to perusers of my item(s)

“Please do not send me messages about ending auctions early or for private Buy It Now prices. I respect the auction format and do not reply to these messages”

As you can tell, I subscribe to the “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” philosophy. I’ve had my bids cancelled in suspicious circumstances before and I was furious, especially when I had good reason to believe that somebody else had messaged the seller with an offer and persuaded them to end the auction early so that they may buy the item. I wouldn’t want this to happen to me and so I certainly wouldn’t inflict it on others who are placing bids on my auctions. Also, the vast majority of these people who message sellers and get their dirty way are traders themselves, looking to take advantage of sellers who don’t know the value of what they have up for auction. The seller thinks that they are getting a good deal but the dodgy buyer knows better. He knows that he can sell the item on for double what he paid. Then there are the simple low-ballers who want everything for nothing. It’s why I no longer allow the “Best Offer” facility on my listings as it only ever attracted insulting offers from potential buyers who think that slashing 60% or more from the original asking price is fair.

I listed a load of videogames yesterday as part of my ongoing purge of material possessions and – as usual – included my little blurb about not contaminating my inbox with unwanted offers. Most of my items have multiple bids on them already with buyers playing by the rules and attempting to win them legitimately. Furthermore, I have been involved in the videogame scene for years now and so in addition to my ability to check completed listings and get a lay of the digital land, I pretty much know what is and what isn’t worth money. I’m not going to be hoodwinked by low-balling re-sellers is what I’m saying.

So imagine my dismay when I see that I have messages today. One was from somebody who wanted to know if I would accept £20 for four games. The other was from a different prospector seeking a combined price on two specific games I was selling.

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Can you morons not read? You haven’t even addressed by special blurb in your messages. You want me to just cancel everybody else’s bids, end the item(s) using a false reason (item damaged, no longer available etc.) and sell to you in private without the seller protection offered by Ebay and Paypal? Jog on, mate. Play the auction game fair and square and put up the money you are prepared to spend on the items. If they sell for more than you are willing to pay then tough, that’s capitalism baby. Don’t try these back-door shenanigans and expect me to flip the middle finger to every other honest bidder. Somebody needs to play the game fairly and buddy, that’s me.

Additionally, they have simply ignored my request for people to NOT send me these sorts of messages and that’s just fucking rude. I think this ignorance may in fact get my back up more than would-be buyers wanting me to screw the rules.

Just go away.