Unhealthy competition

I wasn’t planning to write anything today, and I definitely didn’t intend to have a rant (see yesterday’s post for that sort of thing), but I couldn’t resist saying a few words about Black Friday. This is an established tradition in the USA, I know, but over here it’s still relatively new, so it was fascinating to see that people had turned up at stores all over the UK from a minute past midnight, to try and buy cheap stuff.

At first it was quite funny, watching these crazy people who were willing to go out in the cold while I was still tucked up in bed. I even likened it to the scene in Friends where Monica has to resort to physical violence to secure her chosen wedding dress from another bride. (Proof once again that for every situation in life, there’s a corresponding episode of Friends.)

But then I watched a couple of videos and realised that what had looked like good-natured jostling between shoppers to get their hands on the last TV was actually quite vicious. You could have been forgiven for thinking the end of the world had been announced; people were getting pushed over, trampled on and threatened, while others were launching themselves over the side of escalators to try and grab stuff before the last one sold out. Customers were running through the store, randomly grabbing anything they could – I’m willing to bet some of them didn’t even know what they’d purchased till they got home.

Personally, I’m not a fan of sales; I’ve never gone for the lining up in the early hours of Boxing Day morning to be first at the post-Christmas sales, because to be honest situations like that tend to make me feel claustrophobic and stressed. My favourite kind of shop is one that’s not completely empty – because then I feel watched by the staff – but definitely not rammed. I like to be able to easily find what I want and buy it with minimal effort. Maybe I’m lazy, or maybe I just think life’s too short.

I’m not judging people who enjoy sales, by the way. In fact I think my feelings about bargain hunting probably put me in the minority overall. But the people I do judge are the ones who are so desperate to buy a cheap TV (and not even a particularly good one) that they’re willing to beat people up to get it.

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to impulse buying. A few months ago, a friend alerted me to an offer on the ProCook website. They were giving away 100 free sets of attractive, multi-coloured knives, and suddenly it was like these knives were all I’d ever wanted. So by the time I got to the checkout, I was so excited I didn’t really notice that by adding delivery costs and a knife block to the basket, I’d spent more than the knives were worth in the first place.

But the point is if I hadn’t been one of the lucky 100, I’d probably have sulked for a bit and then forgotten all about it and gone back to using my normal knives, which were perfectly adequate, if a lot less pretty to look at. I wouldn’t have punched my friend in the face because she got some and I didn’t (which I’m sure will be welcome news to her).

Beautiful knives
Here they are. Aren’t they lovely?

One thing’s for sure: I’ve definitely never felt the need to go out in the middle of the night to spend money just for the sake of it. I love my bed too much for that. And it makes me genuinely sad to see otherwise rational people losing their heads over toasters and coffee makers. Those same people are probably really proud of themselves right now because they ‘got a bargain’. But like me and my knives, it’s not a bargain if you end up spending money you wouldn’t otherwise have spent. Even if the price is lower than usual, your resulting bank balance is too. And now you have two kettles and a DVD player that you don’t want.

I can’t help wondering how many of the people fighting this morning actually needed the stuff they were so desperate for. I’m willing to bet not a lot, but for some reason they gained satisfaction from getting hold of one when other people failed. And that, I think, is the problem. The true value of those items isn’t in the quality of the TV, or the financial ‘saving’; it’s all about beating other people. And I’m not sure what that says about humanity, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good.

It’s the same mentality that makes people shove others aside when trying to board a train, even if that train is completely empty. Everyone wants to win. I get that – I like winning too. But I can’t help feeling it would be better if we were to save our fighting spirit for genuine competitions, where we can end up with a feeling of pride and achievement, rather than a black eye.

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2 thoughts on “Unhealthy competition

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