Why I’m Boycotting Black Friday

As a Brit living in Australia, I’m not sure how Black Friday crept into my life. It was always a spectacle viewed from afar, a foreign affair like Hallowe’en smores and the pledge of allegiance. But the retail practice has metastasized, pushing traders who’ve never eaten Thanksgiving turkey to annually cull their prices in a bid to compete. Exclusive offers, early deals – my inbox is humming. But I won’t be taking part, either as a consumer or as a small business.

We have a thing in Australia called Hard Rubbish. Twice a year, the council collects any items too big for regular waste bins. Furniture, mattresses, fridges, books, all left on the kerbside and taken away. Some get recycled and salvaged (a lot of my furniture comes from the roadside), the rest goes to landfill. Every six months the streets swell with furnishings, broken and unwanted. It’s the defecation of consumerism, and it’s a confronting experience.

When I think of Black Friday I think of Hard Rubbish. All the products we bought on a whim but didn’t need. That lost their shine and wound up hidden in some cupboard, destined for landfill on the next decluttering spree. That are poorly made, designed to break on purpose so we’d buy more. According to a 2019 Green Alliance report, up to 80% of electronics and clothing - and their plastic packaging - are thrown away, sometimes after a very short lifespan. 

A typical Hard Rubbish offering

There’s a mental wellbeing issue, too. Maybe you’re the kind of person who can ignore the endless pop-ups typical of online sales. But for some people, especially those with anxiety or heightened sensitivity, this can be overwhelming. According to The Universal Score, an initiative by Idean to create more inclusive design, “playing on scarcity, urgency and fear of missed opportunity creates unnecessary pressure. This can increase anxiety and push people to make decisions that might not be in their best interests.” 

So despite pressure from Etsy, I won’t be running a Black Friday or Cyber Week sale. I’m not alone – according to a recent piece by the Guardian, up to 85% of smaller sellers are ditching the event. Some are protesting by planting trees, closing their sites, or donating to charity. It’s a show of support for small businesses that have suffered during the pandemic.

The giants like Amazon, Ebay, Apple, etc, can afford to include sales as part of their business plan. But they also rarely pay taxes, destroy vast amounts of returned or unused stock, and treat workers terribly – I’m sure you’ve heard about the Amazon workers urinating in bottles because they can’t take toilet breaks. So it’s a discount, but at who’s cost?

This man does not need your money.

As an independent artist, I price fairly year-round. I handmake all my products and put hours of work into each design. I strive to create beautiful items that people love sending and receiving. I’d much rather someone bought something from me at full price and loved it, rather than ten customers who bought items ‘because they were on sale’, and ended up throwing them away because they never used them. I win, you win, the environment wins if we all slow down and buy products we love. 

If you can’t give up your Black Friday bargains, remember the easiest way to save money is to not buy anything. So thrifty humans, on Friday I’ll be sharing TEN FREE JOYS that are better than the latest kitchen gadget. 

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