We need to talk.
No, we’re so totally not breaking up, so please put the suitcase away and don’t call your mother. And don’t send one of your chemically-imbalanced totes-besties to flame me in the comments section. This is not about my love for you or about our relationship, so you can relax.
This is about what you stand for, my dear. We need to get some priorities straight.
I am well aware that you and some of your popular, crunchy friends are behind a couple of wonderful movements of which I approve. I am talking about buying handmade presents this Christmas and of boycotting the bloated, disgusting consumerfest that is Black Friday. And I both laud and applaud these commitments, you know? I think the crass, gross commercialization that pervades our zeitgeist is stifling and rude and it completely misses the point of the season and the spirit of giving. And while I still think that Wal-Mart has its place in society (especially in places where there is ONLY Wal-Mart), the truth is that ALL big box corporations in general also need to be kept in check. All of that Chinese-manufactured plastic does not belong in toy bins or underfoot on Christmas evening, as you’re trying to get another cup of tea while fighting the fog of tryptophan-induced lethargy.
I think you know what part I’m starting to get a little irked about, though.
It’s the hypocrisy, my dear. Always, the hypocrisy.
Buying handmade goods from vendors who lovingly and painstakingly devote hours to gathering the best, most earth-friendly and gorgeously put-together materials and then assemble them making not just a toy or a sweater or a pair of shoes but a one-of-a-kind item that is more collectible than disposable is… is… is…
…. a luxury not everyone can afford.
It’s a luxury. Luxuries cost money. Until very recently, luxuries were only reserved for the truly rich, but our buoyant society –particularly in this first-world country where I sit typing away on my pushing-23-on-the-BMI-scale butt– has opened the door for many people who couldn’t previously do it to actually afford luxury. But there are still many who cannot. Or, judging by credit ratings, should not.
Go through any of the excellent stores on Etsy or through this beautiful store, and discover that if you truly want gorgeous, artistic, excellent quality items, you are looking to pay upwards of $20 for most items, without counting postage. Now, this is fine and I highly encourage you to support artists and support handmade goods. I think that is not unreasonable considering that you are sitting in your comfortable house with a fast internet connection and disposable income enough to allow you to loiter and read my rambling –or you’re likely even getting paid while reading my rambling, as you are blogging and reading blogs from your well-paid job.
I believe that the spirit of buying handmade is good, but maybe it shouldn’t be as much "buying" as "making" handmade. I realize this doesn’t sell anything at Etsy stores and the results are not quite as glamorous as you would like them to be. But at least now my conscience is clear in that respect.
Have you ever gone to the mall on Black Friday, Internets?
No, neither have I.
Well, okay. I lie: I have actually stepped into a mall on a day after Thanksgiving before, but never under the Black Friday "rager" label. Some malls open at midnight; some malls offer special shuttles, dinners, booze, gifts and additional discounts; some even offer accommodations and spa packages and things that start to sound more like vacation to DiscountLand rather than just the ol’ checking items off your good-will-toward-men list.
A few days before the birth of Herr Meow, I waddled along with Monsieur Meow over to the mall. He’d seen a Bluetooth cellphone set ("the asshole-maker") on sale at RadioShack, and we thought we’d just see how things were. We walked from the theaters to the store and were stunned to find it pretty much empty, except for a sleepy-looking couple of employees. When we asked about the headset, we were just given a puzzled look and were told of the horrid locust wave of people that came through and bought up everything in the morning. One of the guys was even impressed that they’d left the display box behind.
However, does the onslaught of cannibal consumers during a one-day shopping orgy stop the onslaught of cannibal consumers who will go to the mall, clog up the roads, take up all the parking spaces and shop in a sale-seeking zombielike attitude for the remaining Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve?
For that matter, will any of this campaigning, writing, and pointing of fingers stop anyone from buying things, things, and more things up until the doors aren’t open anymore before Christmas day is upon us?
So I propose something drastic, simple, and very hard to comply with:
Try to avoid shopping altogether, Internets. If you must shop, make it small, meaningful, and if possible, handmade.
Stop giving into the impulse buy.
Stay away from Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, KMart, IKEA and other stores that encourage uncurbed spending. Learn how to make do with what you have.
I know I’ll probably fail, but it’ll make it harder to own up to my failures if you are here by my side to broadcast them to the whole wide world. It’ll make you and me less hypocritical, by default.
And that is how relationships stay strong, isn’t it, Internets?
Now let me whisper in your ear that I love you and be done with this, k?
as someone who used to work retail for many years, black friday is EVIL! stay home, people! stay home! eat some thanksgiving leftovers, have another food coma and save yourself some moola.
I try to limit any shopping excursions on “Black Friday” to the grocery store – no one’s there the day after Thanksgiving (they were all there the day BEFORE it – that’s the “wicked Wednesday” of food shopping). The mall and the big stores aren’t worth the aggravation and craziness, no matter how big the markdowns are. Then again, since holiday-shopping season apparently started in September, will the dreaded Friday be less dreadful this year?
Unfortunately, I can’t promise to skip the shopping altogether, but I will try to do it more consciously.
I never, ever shop on Black Friday. I refuse to do it, and have not done it in years. I hate what commercialism have done to Christmas. I used to like that holiday. No more. I haven’t liked it in many many years.
I can only afford hand-made things as gifts, though. Occasional gifts. Off to WalMart I go, then … sure hope the Chinese don’t hate us as much as everyone else seems to.
I avoid even leaving my house until the Monday after Thanksgiving… That’s not a weekend to shop, it’s our Christmas decorating weekend…
Most of my gifts this year will be homemade… MY HOME-made, not bought!
I agree with you about the part where not everyone can afford to buy handmade. Even worse, I am adamant about buying useful, use-able gifts. There is not a handmade item in this world that my father can use. (We live in a very warm climate and I haven’t seen him wear a scarf or hat in probably 25 years.) He loves books, so he will be getting books (though they will be purchased from my local, independent book store).
And then there’s my baby brother, who is going into the ministry. He’s giving up so much to live a life of poverty and modesty, and so he gets whatever he wants! (That’s why I can’t take the handmade pledge.)
As a person who makes a lot of crafty things, I find it both ironic that people buy hand-made gifts to give and that a fair amount of money can be made selling hand-made gifts.
That being said, considering how much time can be spent making something, a price tag of 20 dollars for a hand-made gift can be quite a bargain. The cost of materials is usually low however the time invested can work out to something like being paid 2-3 dollars an hour. Which is why when I do make items for sale they are items I can make in 30 minutes to an hour and usually charge around 5-10 dollars.
Personally, I like to make gifts because then I try to combine something of what I like with something the recipient likes. Besides, I try to avoid malls like the plague once December hits. It also means I start deciding what I want to make in July so I have enough time to make everything. 🙂
BTW a perfect gift for Nikki’s father would be hand-made bookmarks.
Excellent post! 🙂 I never, ever go near a mall on “Black Friday” because I am a hysterical introvert and that kind of chaos makes me go insane(r). GAH!
And looking around my house at all the knick-knacky “STUFF” that I thought was neat but now just feels like clutter (albeit cute clutter) causes me to feel great sadness over all of it. I am trying to recycle, gift things/books to others who might like them, etc. but it feels very overwhelming to me anymore.
I love handmade or really nice thoughtful gifts. They don’t have to cost much at all – in fact, the less expensive the better.
This was beautifully written. I tend to avoid the malls and mega stores like the plague on Black Friday – always have since I’ve worked retail many years ago. As for Etsy, I’ve already made a couple holiday purchases 🙂
PS – I’d love to reprint this post on my site (we average about over 5K views a day). Shoot me and email if you’d like to learn more – I try to keep my connection to my site and my blog separate.