Since I was once a shopkeeper myself, back in Philadelphia of the 1700s, I am well acquainted with the ways of the retail trade. My dear wife Deborah was an immense help in this endeavor, assisting me in so many different ways in our little establishment on Market Street. Our shop sold candles, chocolate, pens and paper, coffee, maps, cheese, stoves, lottery tickets, and much more — a wide variety of goods in great demand by our customers. And when it came to the matter of keeping present customers and adding new ones, our primary method was to provide the best possible customer service. Certainly, we might have had occasion to engage in modest promotional practices that had the potential of increasing our trade, but we did not worry that excessively about our enterprise as shop owners do today.
In this future world of 2013, of course, the number of shops and shopping centers has grown immensely! A humble merchant like myself could not even begin to imagine the level of competition this has created. One’s very survival depends upon a “make or break” mindset that owes total allegiance to the profitability of one’s business. In the words of some anonymous 21st century observer, “It’s a jungle out there.”
Black Friday, as I understand it, is comparable to a gigantic, month-long marathon, with all the merchants as contenders. They line up at the starting line on Black Friday, the starting pistol is fired, and the entire mob hurtles madly forward with the utmost greed and avarice, and the seeming total disregard for sportsmanlike behavior, ethical practices, and the true significance of this holiday season.
I may not have been one who placed great importance on attendance at religious observances, but at least I had some respect for the spiritual significance of the season.
As I once said, “the best way to serve God is to serve humanity.” I can hardly see how encouraging excessive spending and indebtedness is serving humanity!
I should also mention, that I have discovered in my research how the name “Black Friday” was coined (in Philadelphia, as a matter of fact!), as a simple reference to the day of Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when all the merchants’ Christmas sales begin in earnest. As the most well-attended shopping event of the entire year, it has the potential to put the merchant “in the black,” that is, turn a profit, or, conversely, to put him or her “in the red,” losing money to the extent that the shop will be in danger of closing. (This is so, I’m told, because most stores are supposedly operating at a loss from January through November.)
I wonder how many people have paused to consider that the name of this so-called holiday, “Black Friday,” is akin to another observance of great import – Good Friday!
The irony of this similarity is too delightful to ignore. The one holiday, the religious one, reminds us that Someone was sacrificed for the sins of humanity, and then consequently raised to save us from these sins. The other, the retail observance, asks us all to sacrifice ourselves for the sins of the merchants… and I daresay that these merchants will not care a farthing about our well-being and welfare, especially after depositing us on the doorstep of the poorhouse as the result of our spending sprees.
Your humble servant,