As Black Friday hit America by storm for another year, Ireland jumped on the bandwagon. It crashed onto our isle on waves of insanity as shoppers took to the streets in droves to avail of the discounts on offer.
Black Friday began as a shopping day in the States in the early 2000s. It takes place the day after Thanksgiving. It became a ritual for shops to open their doors at 6.00am, offering massive discounts for one day only. Now shops are beginning to open their doors as early as 4.00am for the hungry shoppers. What probably began as a brilliant business initiative has now become a global joke, as television programmes such as South Park belittle the day as nothing more than an excuse for temporary insanity and greedy consumerism.
This ideology of commercialism and “more, more, more” has been leaking into European culture steadily in the last few years. It seemed to start off with the January sales; people would queue and shop for hours, saving whatever they could spare during Christmas to be able to buy the practical items that they couldn’t afford otherwise. With shops like Boots, Argos and Easons offering incredible percentages off their products, it seemed to be a great success this weekend. We must keep in mind though those who had to work in these retail shops during the madness; what did they think of everything?
Sara Hanly, who worked in the Dundrum Shopping Centre during the first Irish Black Friday said; “I’ve been working in Dundrum shopping centre for 4 years and absolutely dread “events” like Black Friday. So many customers get crammed into the shops that it becomes a highly stressful environment. Customers are aggravated because it’s too crowed to reach the clothes they want and there’s such long queues.” When it comes to the behaviour of the shoppers Sara said: “Some customers are rude but I think it’s more to do with the stress of the crowds. Sometimes I’m rude to customers myself just because of the pressure, and sales assistants are under a lot of pressure trying to tidy the floor while endlessly running up and down to the stockroom for customers. I finished my shift early on Friday and on my way home a Dundrum security guard asked me if I wasn’t going to do some discount shopping for myself. I said no way, I don’t see the appeal of it at all. He answered “greed”. Kind of summed it up for me ”
The residents of Dundrum were not too impressed either with the events of the weekend. Many residents said that it was “madness” and that they felt like their weekend was stressful, as they tried to go about their business amongst the crowds. Jane O’ Donoghue, who lives opposite the shopping centre said that there should have been warnings given out. “It would have been nice if they gave some type of warning. It might have been good if they even dropped a leaflet in the post box to say it was going to be on and expect traffic! That’s been the most annoying thing! It’s the whole way around the place which is very annoying when you’re just trying to get home and not trying to shop.”
However it didn’t seem to be doom and gloom for everyone working the day. Taxi driver Ronan states that sales days like these are the best for taxi drivers. “You see the thing is, no one wants to be carrying all that shopping on the bus. And some of them can’t even lift all their shopping, they’ve gone and bought so much! It’s a great boost in fares for us, we just drive through town or stay in the Dundrum area and there’s always gonna be someone flagging you down. I’ve been working about eight hours now today and I have definately seen a massive difference in the amount of people I’ve picked up today in comparason to an ordinary day. It’s like Paddy’s Day.”
You could think of this as a harmless day, a great day for those who might not have enough money to afford the finer things in life without these discounts. Unfortunately, the truth is that this day in shopper’s heaven has become nothing more than a violent, animalistic event that shows us how the need to consume more and more has taken over our brains. Sadly, in 2008, a person working in a shop on Black Friday died, having been crushed in a stampede in Long Island. This is not the only case of death that has been reported during Black Friday, with another person in 2011 suffering a heart attack as people stepped over him.
During the most recent Black Friday in the UK, police forces were called in all over the country to deal with assaults, threats by shoppers, traffic issues and crowd control. Consumers showed behaviour that one would expect to happen in a political riot. UK police were seen to be quoted all over the newspapers stating that the crowds behaviour was disgraceful. They also commented that the chaos was “predictable” and that retailers should have been more prepared for the frenzy that ensued. One paper claimed that a Tesco store had to be closed 36 minutes into opening as crowds became out of control.
As Dylan Moran put it so wonderfully: “The other thing that we seem to have bought into in a big way is consumerism. That’s what people use to fill the void. The stuff… All the stuff all the time, that you can’t get away from… You walk around the house looking for a pen or a piece of paper, you cant find anything useful like that but you can always put your hands on a purple furry cube with the number six on the side and rubber legs underneath and you pick it up and you go ‘What is this? Why is it in the house?!’ Because you bought it that’s why! Like all the other useless crap you never use!”