A Call to Curb Thankshopping

Photo by Ruth Caron on Unsplash

‘Tis the (turkey) season. Which, aside from the feasting, means one thing: After months of hibernation, concocting advertising strategies, and sussing out the competition, marketers, merchants and merchandisers are parading their goods out into the world. A flotilla of unnecessary gadgets and gizmos have been flooding the market, each one shinier and more disruptive than its predecessor. Like a posse of peacocks, their full range of luminous plumage on display.

It was 1952 when Americans first welcomed Black Friday into their lives. They had no inkling of what was to come. Eventually shopping sprees turned into a festival of conspicuous consumption, an uncontrollable addiction sweeping the country. Eventually the phenomenon veered completely off the rails, edging ever more towards aggressive behavior and violent altercations in malls, while queues grew into ever-longer trails of weary-eyed citizens camping overnight, outside big-box stores.

The writing was on the wall: the spirit of Thanksgiving had gone astray. A holiday that was supposed to mark the pilgrims’ harvest from the early 17th century onwards, gradually lost it original symbolism – gratitude for the blessings of nature’s bounty and prosperity – turning instead into a post-stuffed-turkey-filled-belly shopalooza.

Half a century later, in 2005, thanks to the advent of the internet, Cyber Monday came into existence. Another marketing company’s ploy; another feeble excuse for going into debt. Though why another shopping day was instituted, merely days after the busiest shopping day in America, is anybody’s guess.

Promotions. Discounts. Super sales. One day sales. Midnight sales. The apparently unstoppable Thanksgiving-to-Christmas juggernaut quickly morphed into a month-long shopping spree. What British writer George Monbiot would call a ‘festival of junk.’

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

In 2010, someone thought up yet another festive-sounding shopping event: Small Business Saturday. Sponsored by American Express, it was devised as yet another economic incentive; in this instance, bolstering smaller, local, brick and mortar businesses. A ruse of inclusive-marketing: Give John’s Hardware store and Molly’s bakery their slice of the purchase-pie. Not-so-little shopalooza around the corner.

Here’s my beef with turkey-day (Xmas, etc): Why must everything be turned into a consumer-targeted scheme, under the guise of ‘celebration’? Since when have the acts of giving and caring become a marketer’s wet-dream, inextricably tied to a change of seasons; as if summertime let you off the hook, let you act more carelessly, less consciously. As if springtime or the last waning days of summer’s blazing heat and barbeques could somehow offer you respite from the act of looking out for others.

Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

Thankfully, in 2012, Giving Tuesday entered the fray. “#GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.” But, in light of the preceding days of super-shopping, does anyone have coin left to give?

Once upon a time, “the celebration was an exceptional cross-cultural moment, with food, games and prayer.”

I say, bring out the food and games. Write a letter or a poem. Bake a cake. Spend time with a friend. Hold hands. Give a hug. Eat just enough. Prayer is optional.

It may be too late to stop the madness, an annual cycle of waste, throw-offs, returns, and trash that piles up, the JUNK. Perhaps a conscientious marketer will see the light in 2018. How about Wordless Wednesday? BEFORE all the feasting and shopping (and donating, if feasible), a wee bit of silence, solitude and contemplation might do everyone some good. There must be an app for that too.


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