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There’s been a lot of talk this year about stores open on Thanksgiving, and I was ready to–and honestly, had–join in the general crankiness towards retailers doing so. I’ve never been a huge fan of Black Friday boycotts, because I do understand the idea and appeal of a sale, but grumbling at the encroaching opening times and intense sales? Yeah, I readily admit it.

In fact, I was already in grumbling mood this evening, because I made the mistake of swinging by the store to pick up some staples for the long weekend, and to consider some sort of protein for Thursday. The store was already building to crazy levels of people panicking over the oddest things, and I made a choice, on the spot, to save myself some headache and get everything I could possibly need right then, rather than saving some of the standard Trader Joe’s items for tomorrow. (I can only imagine what it’s going to be like in there.) Yes, I was going to pay more for bananas, but it was a tax I was willing to pay to avoid people at holiday panic.

That was my frame of mind as I hopped off the bus, groceries in hand, and started making my way through the transit center. I got stuck behind two young women and what was five or six very young children between them; they both had strollers and there were other children milling around, one on hip, and so forth. There were repeated references of “come to your mother” and such that made it clear that these young women were mothers to at least some of the children.

If it helps your mental image, they were also black.

I was, in my cranky mood, mostly irritated at being stuck behind strollers in a space not wide enough to pass. But being there, it was hard not to hear them talking, and they were talking about the upcoming sales. (Yes, I rolled my eyes. I’m not proud.) One was telling the other about a sale on TVs and how she was tempted, but there was some other sale going on and her friend was going to the TV one, but it was one per household. The other said she was going to get in line at a store I missed the name of, because they had $179 computers.

That stopped the conversation, and the walking, cold. “Computers?” “Yeah, laptops.”

I managed not to run into them, they saw me and apologized for stopping, and let me walk by them. As I was passing, I heard the one who’d been talking about the TV say, “A laptop for $179? I could do my homework at home. I wouldn’t have to stay at school late. I wouldn’t have to pay for daycare… or I could get another job!”

As I walked off, I continued hearing her talk about how much having a $179 laptop–one her friend admitted wasn’t a great machine, but workable–would change her life, whether she opted to get another job or save the money that daycare cost her, how it might impact her grades. As I rounded the corner and their conversation faded from hearing, it sounded like she was talking to someone else, sharing the news, and asking how much internet at home would cost.

I walked off to jump on the high speed train home, because I hit the right time and the 50 cent fare increase is an annoyance, not impossible. There are buses that take the same route; I ride them sometimes, when I miss the high speed train. The faces I see on the train rarely overlap with the faces I see on the bus, even though the stops are similar, and the train is significantly faster.

I made the choice, today, to spend an additional $10 on groceries rather than deal with crowds and inconvenience. But I had a choice.

I remember being in my early 20s, literally counting every cent being spent on groceries, because my ex-husband and I barely had any money. I remember my father sneaking groceries into my car, and I remember being grateful for holiday sales.

Even then, we owned computers and had internet access.

It’s easy to be cynical about holiday sales creep sitting here from a position of privilege that allows me to choose to spend extra money for convenience, and I’m grateful to be reminded of that. Yes, I think the consumer culture is a travesty and it encourages waste and all of the typical things you hear spouted off about holidays sales and creep, but if those sales mean that some of the people waiting outside in long lines in the bitter cold have a chance to grab at something to help make life easier, or maybe even better? Then I should probably just sit down, shut up, and enjoy the privilege that having a middle class, white collar job gives me, without holding others to a standard of living that, until a few years (and an education) ago, I didn’t have access to myself.

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28 Responses to “Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc)”

  1. on 26 Nov 2013 at 9:08 pmrocza

    Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  2. on 26 Nov 2013 at 9:09 pmdocfreeride

    RT @rocza: Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  3. on 26 Nov 2013 at 9:10 pmGeekGirlsRule

    RT @rocza: Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  4. on 26 Nov 2013 at 9:12 pmneva9257

    RT @rocza: Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  5. on 26 Nov 2013 at 10:39 pmejwillingham

    In which @rocza gets her reminder abt privilege via public transit http://t.co/bc9HOUDIDM

  6. on 27 Nov 2013 at 3:29 amJenLucPiquant

    Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) by @rocza http://t.co/lG7CqNvIjD

  7. on 27 Nov 2013 at 3:37 amjgold85

    RT @JenLucPiquant: Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) by @rocza http://t.co/lG7CqNvIjD

  8. on 27 Nov 2013 at 8:16 amrocza

    ICYMI, I wrote about being confronted by the privilege to boycott Black Friday http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  9. on 27 Nov 2013 at 8:21 amJohnNCoupland

    RT @rocza: ICYMI, I wrote about being confronted by the privilege to boycott Black Friday http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  10. on 27 Nov 2013 at 8:31 amporcinea

    RT @rocza: ICYMI, I wrote about being confronted by the privilege to boycott Black Friday http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  11. on 27 Nov 2013 at 10:20 amTracingCenter

    Thoughts on Privilege and Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Friday, etc) by @rocza http://t.co/tQ0lIhV0VR

  12. on 27 Nov 2013 at 8:23 pmjenilsson

    RT @rocza: ICYMI, I wrote about being confronted by the privilege to boycott Black Friday http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  13. on 28 Nov 2013 at 1:09 amJan Henderson

    I really liked this, Kelly. Nicely observed, conveyed, and an important point. It reminds me of something I read recently – an essay review of the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (and it’s not behind a paywall http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/sep/26/it-captures-your-mind/). The essay is by Cass Sunstein, and while I’m leery of government imposed Nudges, I’m more favorably inclined towards Sunstein after this review.

    He quotes Esther Duflo, reputedly the one of the world’s leading experts on poverty:

    “We tend to be patronizing about the poor in a very specific sense, which is that we tend to think, ‘Why don’t they take more responsibility for their lives?’ And what we are forgetting is that the richer you are the less responsibility you need to take for your own life because everything is taken care [of] for you. And the poorer you are the more you have to be responsible for everything about your life…. Stop berating people for not being responsible and start to think of ways instead of providing the poor with the luxury that we all have, which is that a lot of decisions are taken for us. If we do nothing, we are on the right track. For most of the poor, if they do nothing, they are on the wrong track.”

    This really resonates with me in connection with attitudes in the US towards people who don’t have health insurance or who are poor and get sick. They should be more personally responsible. [expletive deleted]. If we would all just take a moment to appreciate how life is different for the haves and have nots, as you did in the incident you so vividly describe, the world would be a better place.

  14. on 28 Nov 2013 at 1:17 amHealthCulture

    Thots on Privilege&Holiday Sales (Thanksgiving Retail, Black Fri, etc) http://t.co/QRv0BHJ2u8 @rocza Some of us have choices/Nicely observed

  15. on 28 Nov 2013 at 10:49 pmrocza

    Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  16. on 28 Nov 2013 at 10:49 pmneva9257

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  17. on 28 Nov 2013 at 10:53 pmNebula63

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  18. on 28 Nov 2013 at 10:56 pmjovian34

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  19. on 28 Nov 2013 at 10:57 pmrocza

    @AmericasBaby1 Here, I’ll self-promote directly: I wrote about changing my POV earlier this week http://t.co/meRP1xov43

  20. on 28 Nov 2013 at 11:09 pmminisciencegirl

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  21. on 28 Nov 2013 at 11:35 pmpschiendelman

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  22. on 29 Nov 2013 at 2:00 amneva9257

    @robinlloyd99 @pauljimerson can’t help but think that “shopping is a disease” is the privilege of those w. too much: http://t.co/uSDMhOlSFH

  23. on 29 Nov 2013 at 2:44 amdocfreeride

    RT @neva9257: @robinlloyd99 @pauljimerson can’t help but think that “shopping is a disease” is the privilege of those w. too much: http://t…

  24. on 29 Nov 2013 at 9:33 amporcinea

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  25. on 29 Nov 2013 at 9:33 amrobinlloyd99

    RT @neva9257: @robinlloyd99 @pauljimerson can’t help but think that “shopping is a disease” is the privilege of those w. too much: http://t…

  26. on 29 Nov 2013 at 11:02 amrouquinne

    RT @rocza: Since lots folks are hating on #BlackFriday, my take: it’s a privilege to be able to skip it, so check it & shush http://t.co/m…

  27. on 29 Nov 2013 at 5:34 pmrouquinne

    @JayCMenard @RSueClifford @ronnyzoo @phronk Another take on Black Friday Frenzy: http://t.co/YAaUEyjuXs

  28. on 29 Nov 2013 at 5:51 pmr343l

    @oceanbound @wilw A good personal post about this – http://t.co/CpAUTNNSWJ by @rocza

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