It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas so retailers are trying to squeeze some more dollars from consumers while they start preparing for the post-Christmas sales.
What a wonderful time of year.
It is a good reminder how the retail sector has managed to smother any possible meaning left of Christmas or any other similar holiday celebrated by other cultures and religions.
This reality hit me hard on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I had a household item I needed so after work I decided I would make a stop at Walmart. Despite that store being across the street from my office, I rarely shop there, not because I have an issue with Walmart, but because the retailer is just too big. It takes you hours just to find a product as you wander aimlessly through their warehouse-size store.
As I approached the entrance to Walmart, I saw two TV news trucks and thought there had been an incident of some sort. Then I saw fencing in place and people who had set up tents outside and realized the TV news trucks were there to interview some of the early crazy people who had set up tents to camp out starting Wednesday so they can be one of the first to enter the store on Black Friday.
I was baffled by this.
I went into the store to look for the cleaning product I needed. Inside I witnessed an environment of intensity. The aisles were jammed with pallet after pallet of products, all cellophane wrapped with signs on them that said “Black Friday.” It was almost impossible to navigate the store as many aisles were literally blocked.
There were scores of Walmart staff unwrapping the pallets of products with great zeal because they were working against the clock. Management was giving orders to staff and senior management was conducting a meeting leaning against a pallet, reviewing their clipboards with inventories.
I stopped and took some pictures because those TV news stories I’ve been seeing year after year of the mob of people trampling each other to be the first into a store on Black Friday suddenly came to life for me.
It reminded me that while the Christmas holiday period has long since been turned into an exercise of materialism, the assault on Thanksgiving was almost complete too. With people camping outside stores and all the pre-Thanksgiving Black Friday advertising bombarding people, the retail sector is close to eradicating the meaning of Thanksgiving as well.
None of this should be surprising. Retailers have managed to also eradicate any meaning out of important days such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day.
After all, these are two days in the year where we should honor those who have served our nation in the military, the cause of freedom and in many cases sacrificed their lives. But most see those days as a weekend where you get an extra day off with some good “sales.” Need a mattress or kitchen appliance?
This destruction of the cultural fabric of our nation is reprehensible. What makes for a great nation is when people have deep connections to each other through families and friends. Our country is already in overdrive, making it challenging for people to spend any meaningful time together to nurture their bonds.
There are a handful of special days in the year where things slow down enough to reconnect with people. The retail sector is finding ways to obliterate the meaning of those few days with their sales and hype.
Without a cultural foundation that is based on more socially meaningful things, like genuine connections between people, the strength of the country erodes in a fundamental way. And the scariest thing is, turning everything into a consumer marketing opportunity begins to make a nightmare scenario very real where it starts to feel like we’re actually trapped and are living in one big Walmart store on a Black Friday.
ZANKU ARMENIAN is a resident of Glendale and a corporate communications and public affairs professional. He can be reached at email@example.com.