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Posts Tagged ‘#commercialism’

Black Friday

November 24, 2017 21 comments

After yesterday’s piece on Thanksgiving Day it seemed natural to follow with a companion article on another US tradition which has made its way to these shores: Black Friday. Being the day after Thanksgiving, this is a public holiday in about half of US states and many private employers give their staff the day off too. It marks the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, and has been part of US tradition for well over 50 years: the name was first given to it by the police in Philadelphia (Philly PD, as they’re known in Body Of Proof!) some time around 1960, to describe the pedestrian and traffic chaos that it caused. Judging from some of the scenes we’ve seen on the news in recent years it is an apt name, more for what goes on inside stores than on the roads! Like this

Or this

It must be a TV thing!

I had pondered whether to illustrate this piece with a music video, as I’ve loved the Steely Dan song Black Friday since it was released on their 4th album, Katy Lied. But when I googled the lyrics – as you do – they didn’t really seem to fit, somehow. I also found three other Black Friday songs, by Faith No More (not sure what it was about, to be honest), Megadeth (the usual portentous sounding, overblown heavy metal bollocks about killing – come on guys, it’s not that bad!), and finally by Lil Kim (a foul-mouthed rant, seemingly aimed at Nicki Minge). You’ll be glad to know that at that point I gave up the idea.

Amazon is credited, if that is the right word, with introducing Black Friday here in the UK a few years ago. Since then, their own promotion has grown enormously and it was only a matter of time before other major retailers followed suit – Walmart owns ASDA, so they were an obvious candidate for this, although they did decide not to take part in the 2015 event here in the UK. Officially, this was because they wanted to spread their offers across the whole pre-Christmas buying season, to give their customers the best possible value. Or, back in the real world, what they really meant was that they had decided that the previous year’s news reports of customers apparently attempting to murder each other in ASDA stores to get the best bargains weren’t good for business! Judging by their website, they have stood by that decision, as there is absolutely no mention of Black Friday at all, but apparently it is the ‘ BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!’

My inbox for the past week or two has been bombarded by Black Friday offers from just about any company I’ve ever bought from, both instore and online. It stands to reason, really. They are in business to make money – our money. They may even be selling their offers at a loss but hope to convert us into buying more from them that has less or no discount. Or they are attempting to offload the crap that they over-ordered to make room in their stores and warehouses for…..yes, you guessed, more crap to throw at us. That’s capitalism for you!

It may be hard for you to believe but I like to think of myself as intelligent and, being the proud owner of an MBA in Marketing (1981!), would hope to be able to see through the rampant commercialism. But I do like buying goodies. And I need to get some presents for Christmas. It would be silly to turn down today’s offers and pay more for the same things another day, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could just take another quick look? You never know what you might find that you didn’t know you needed, or that you hadn’t thought of as a gift. There must be someone I know who needs a bicycle repair kit, or some radiator cleansing fluid. But it kind of makes sense to try it just in case, right?

It’s decided then! I’m off to launch myself into the frenzy, from the safety of my armchair, of course. Happy shopping, and try not to get trampled in the rush!

A Plea for Mother’s Day

March 2, 2016 2 comments

Around this time of year we celebrate two notable dates, if ‘celebrate’ is the right word. Recently we enjoyed the rampant commercialism of Valentine’s Day and it isn’t too long now for many of us until we reach Mother’s Day. I want to make a small plea for respite!

St Valentine’s Day has long been a Christian celebration to commemorate two Saints of that name, both of whom lived and died in the 3rd century. Several martyrdom stories have since been added to the roll of honour for this date, including a popular account of Saint Valentine of Rome: his story is that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. During his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer and, before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell. The main association of 14th February with matters of the heart is attributed to Chaucer, the English 14th century poet, so we have him to blame for what we now know just as Valentine’s Day, although I think it would be a little unfair to attribute to him the mass commercialisation of the event which began in the 20th century – he wasn’t Nostradamus, after all, was he?

Mother’s Day also has longstanding religious tradition and history behind it, although you’d be forgiven for not noticing that nowadays. These traditions vary, depending on the religion. Here in the UK the day is actually recognised in the church calendar as Mothering Sunday, and falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Because Easter is early this year, this means that for the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Irish Republic and Nigeria, who use this date, Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, 6th March. There are in fact 30 different dates around the world on which Mother’s Day is celebrated, the largest of which is the second Sunday in May, which is used in North and South America, and across large parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. The modern version was first celebrated in the USA in 1908, after a campaign by a lady called Anna Jarvis to have a designated day for mothers. Commercialisation began in the 1920s, when Hallmark began selling cards, and Jarvis was arrested for a public protest against this. But the date and nature of the celebration have since been widely adopted.

The commercialisation of both dates means that they are ubiquitous. Apart from all of the advertising which uses these days as the basis for promotion – often in incredibly dubious and convoluted ways – there are TV programmes, articles in papers and magazines etc, which are very difficult to avoid unless you become a hermit.  And in this modern technological age, I’d also need to stop checking my emails too. Some of the bombardment is unbelievable: I even had an email the other day from a clothing company which only sells men’s clothing, inviting me to purchase one of a choice of outfits to wear when celebrating with my mother, from the formal suit to go to the posh lunch to smart casual if cooking her a meal at home, complete with an apron!

For me, there is a big problem with these two dates. Since I divorced 8 years ago I’ve not had another relationship, so Valentine’s Day is meaningless for me. And it is also nearly 8 years since my mother died. Not having a Valentine is a choice. Not having a mother isn’t.

Apart from my obvious physical repugnance, the reason that I am single is that I’m happy this way. If I wanted to start another relationship no doubt I could, either by more traditional ways of meeting people or via online dating. But I don’t want to do this, yet – if ever. So Valentine’s Day goes by with me enjoying some schadenfreude at all of those who feel pressured into doing something about it. Good luck to them, I genuinely hope that they all had a wonderful day. My problem is with Mother’s Day. Eight years on, the feelings of loss are somewhat diminished, but they are still there. Many millions have lost their mother, and could do without the commercial juggernaut reminding us of what we have lost and what we could have otherwise been doing.

It’s a difficult time of year. I find myself wishing that all of the companies stuffing this down my throat would roll up their promotional material very tightly and insert it where the sun doesn’t shine. And I’d bet I’m not alone in that. I shall be spending this Sunday in quiet reflection, remembering the person who brought me into this world and all that she did for me. I don’t need any marketing to tell me how to do that. So please, guys, show a little consideration and respect. I find myself agreeing with Anna Jarvis: this should be a day to celebrate our mothers, not to spend loads of money. Whilst the cards, flowers, chocolates and wine – especially the wine! – may be very welcome, do mothers really need this to know that they are appreciated? Wouldn’t telling them, face to face, be much better? And doing things for them, to show them that you care? Not just on Mother’s Day either:

a Mum is for life, not just Mother’s Day.

Mum and baby

When Black Friday Comes

November 27, 2015 Leave a comment

After yesterday’s piece on Thanksgiving Day it seemed natural to follow with a companion article on another US tradition which has made its way to these shores: Black Friday. Being the day after Thanksgiving, this is a public holiday in about half of US states and many private employers give their staff the day off too. It marks the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, and has been part of US tradition for well over 50 years: the name was first given to it by the police in Philadelphia (Philly PD, as they’re known in Body Of Proof!) some time around 1960, to describe the pedestrian and traffic chaos that it caused. Judging from some of the scenes we’ve seen on the news in recent years it is an apt name, more for what goes on inside stores than on the roads! Scenes like those described here, for example:

UK news channels carried similar reports, although to be fair they haven’t come up with any stories of mass hysteria so far this year, as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, I’ll stick with doing my shopping online, thanks!

I had pondered whether to illustrate this piece with a music video, as I’ve loved the Steely Dan song Black Friday since it was released on their 4th album, Katy Lied. But when I googled the lyrics – as you do – they didn’t really seem to fit, somehow. I also found three other Black Friday songs, by Faith No More (not sure what it was about, to be honest), Megadeth (the usual portentous sounding, overblown heavy metal bollocks about killing – come on guys, it’s not that bad!), and finally by Lil Kim (a foul-mouthed rant, seemingly aimed at Nicki Minge). You’ll be glad to know that at that point I gave up the idea.

Amazon is credited, if that is the right word, with introducing Black Friday here in the UK a few years ago. Since then, their own promotion has grown enormously and I’ll admit to having bought from their offers already – just a book and a couple of DVD box sets that aren’t available on Amazon Prime Video, all very restrained! It was only a matter of time before other major retailers followed suit – Walmart owns ASDA, so they were an obvious candidate for this, although they have decided not to take part in this year’s event here in the UK. Officially, this is because they want to spread their offers across the whole pre-Christmas buying season, to give their customers the best possible value. Or, back in the real world, what they really mean is that they have decided that last year’s news reports of customers apparently attempting to murder each other in ASDA stores to get the best bargains weren’t good for business!

My inbox for the past week has been full of Black Friday offers from just about any company I’ve ever bought from, both instore and online. It stands to reason, really. They are in business to make money – our money. They may even be selling their offers at a loss but hope to convert us into buying more from them that has less or no discount. Or they are attempting to offload the crap that they over-ordered to make room in their stores and warehouses for…..yes, you guessed, more crap to throw at us. That’s capitalism for you!

It may be hard for you to believe but I like to think of myself as intelligent and, being the proud owner of an MBA in Marketing (1981!), would hope to be able to see through the rampant commercialism. But I do like buying goodies. And I need to get some presents for Christmas. It would be silly to turn down today’s offers and pay more for the same things another day, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could just take another quick look? You never know what you might find that you didn’t know you needed, or that you hadn’t thought of as a gift. There must be someone I know who needs a bicycle repair kit, or some radiator cleansing fluid. But it kind of makes sense to try it just in case, right?

It’s decided then! I’m off to launch myself into the frenzy, from the safety of my armchair, of course. Happy shopping, and I hope to see you tomorrow, if you haven’t been trampled in the rush!

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