What 2011 Christmas shopping reveals about America’s economy and character

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Grace Ballor
Contributing Writer

As the dust settles from the chaos of America’s most frenzied Black Friday yet, the character of this 2011 Christmas season is beginning to take shape. But all of this spending makes me wonder: Is the “recession” over? Are we finally out of the woods? Do people finally have enough disposable income to blow a quick $300 on a gaming console or $1,000 on the latest flat-screen LCD?

Black Friday 2011 was reported to have grossed more sales revenue than any other “day-after-Thanksgiving” sales day in American consumer history. Coincident with the increase in dollars spent was an increase in Black Friday violence. FoxNews reported incidents of stampedes, pepper sprayings, shootings, muggings and deaths all within the 12-hour window of deal-busting chaos.

These reports suggest two aspects of our American consumerist character: one, the extent to which Americans want to spend money, and two, the extent to which Americans want to save money by getting deals on consumer goods.  As the violence suggests, it seems that American society is becoming increasingly more desperate – people will do almost anything to get their hands on the latest products in order to keep up with both the Jones’ and our consumer culture, especially if they can “save” money in doing so.

And the economy? Considering the fact that most stores, like Best Buy, opened several hours earlier than usual (10 p.m. or 12 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.), and the fact that marketing firms and ad agencies have been doing overtime to convince the general public to buy their clients’ products, it seems that the increase in Black Friday sales over years past was contrived and does not represent the actual state of the economy.

And so, this record-breaking start to the 2011 Christmas shopping season does not seem to indicate an improvement in our national economy.  Rather, it merely suggests that shoppers had more time this year to snag Black Friday deals – and that they rely on such deals more than ever before to help them maintain their social status as consumers.

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