The problem with Black Friday.

This video was made possible by the people
who support me on Patreon. In the United States, a peculiar phenomenon
happens at the end of November. Two “holidays” happen back-to-back. Thanksgiving and Black
Friday. The first, according to the dominant American narrative, is supposed to be all
about family time, giving thanks and sharing love, while the second stands for the opposite.
But for many, these aren’t holidays. Especially if you’re in the service industry working
in the warehouses for Amazon, where mandatory overtime pits workers against the clock forcing
them to stay on their feet for 12-16 hours a day. This consumption-centric day of sales
is rapidly approaching, so let’s unpack the phenomenon that is Black Friday. What
is it? Why do we focus so much on it? And is there an alternative? The term Black Friday began appearing in the
1960s when Philadelphia police started to complain about the post-Thanksgiving shopping
rush. Since then, the day after Thanksgiving has spiraled into a day of consumer mayhem.
From Best Buy to Target, stores slash prices on key items like TVs or toys to lure customers
into their stores. The idea is that once people are in a store like Walmart, customers will
not only get that $50 TV that they waited hours in line to buy, but they will also fill
up their cart with toys, clothes, and holiday presents they never thought they needed. Black
Friday, is, after all, the beginning of the American consumer tradition that is the holidays,
which if we’re talking about consumption is really a euphemism for Christmas. But increasingly,
the door-busting stampedes of the 2000s seem to be a thing of the past. In 2018, Black
Friday in-person shopping was estimated to have dropped by 1% to as much as 7% since
2017. This is due to shoppers embracing browsing from the comfort of their own homes, particularly
on Cyber Monday, which is the Monday following Black Friday during which many online retailers
have huge sales, comparable to the in-person prices on Black Friday. Cyber Monday brought
in a total of $7.9 billion in sales, with that number predicted to balloon to 9.4 billion
in 2019. So, while the crowds of Black Friday might seem like they’re thinning, they’re
not. In fact, they are actually doing the opposite. Black Friday deals have become more
spread out into the days before Thanksgiving and the weeks after, which has led to a consistent
rise in consumer spending and participation. But what’s so bad about a day where companies
slash their prices so that everyone can get their hands on the latest gadgets? Although
some people may only be able to buy certain needed goods on Black Friday, much of what
is pushed on consumers during Black Friday are unnecessary luxury goods, like the latest
version of Amazon’s smart speaker or giant TVs. In short, Black Friday encourages people
to consume regardless of need, and this over-consumption mindset has serious consequences for both
the environment and our society. In the case of the environment, Black Friday
packaging and shipping have serious consequences. In 2018, there were 44.5 million online transactions
during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. And, with the rise of online shopping,
that number is only expected to grow. This means more wasteful packaging, more fuel burned
in the transportation sector, and trucks and vans packing the streets to fulfill those
2-day shipping orders. Even after those three days, the holiday season means a massive boom
in shipping. The United States Postal Service transported 900 million packages during the
month between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2018. And this demand for shipping is slowly
adding to the emissions of the transportation sector, which now accounts for 29% or the
largest share of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions according to the Environmental
Protection Agency. Compounded with the issue of the waste generated from unwanted presents
and cheaply made goods that wear out quickly or are meant to be thrown away after a few
uses, the shopping sprees of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pushing consumerism further
and further into extremely dangerous territory for both our planet and for the workers who
are pressured to fulfill orders and work long hours in retail stores. Black Friday and Cyber Monday also reflect
and perpetuate serious social problems. The rise of needless consumption is the result
of a capitalistic desire for unfettered growth. This has resulted in valuing a person not
on the way they care, their creativity, or the strength of their community, but instead
on how many commodities they’ve accumulated. And as Noam Chomsky notes, “a huge part
of the economy is devoted to driving these things out of people’s heads. To make you
want to go shopping instead of reading.” This thirst for more is caused by what Chomsky
calls “created wants,” desires for useless objects created by advertisements that make
us believe that if we purchase them, they’ll make us better, more admirable, or more successful
human beings. It also pushes consumers to ignore the ethical question of whether it
is okay to shop at a company like Amazon that demands 12 or more hour days from its workers
who treated so poorly that one employee wrote that he felt like he was a disposable part
of a machine, if he got injured he would be thrown out and quickly replaced. Black Friday
and Cyber Monday are allegedly good for people without much disposable income, but in fact,
they contribute to the exploitation of working-class people. So, while this structure is terrible
for the well-being of people, communities, and the environment, it’s certainly an excellent
way for companies like Apple and Amazon to turn a profit. In short, the number one priority
of a company that slashes its prices on Black Friday is not the pocketbook of its customers
or the state of the world under climate change, instead, it’s quite simply selling more
stuff to make more profits. So, can we escape Black Friday? I think yes,
but Black Friday is merely a symptom of an ailing culture, not the cause. When we look
at it that way, there are a variety of short and long term fixes. Short term harm reduction
strategies look like buying less, boycotting unethical and environmentally destructive
companies like Amazon, and embracing a mentality of repairing and caring for the materials
that you do have. Essentially, you’re trying to participate less in the harmful consumer
culture in which we live. But because we still live in this culture, those are very difficult
paths to follow. So, in addition to short-term, individual-focused actions, what is really
needed is greater participation in the complex and radical social movements for justice like
the Sunrise Movement or Indigenous Climate Action that already exist. These organizations
are challenging both our cultural values and the institutions that facilitate exploitation
and overconsumption. They’re just two of the many movements working on long term, systemic
changes. Whether through restructuring companies so that they’re community-owned and operated
or through true progressive climate action that funds decentralized green infrastructure,
the arts, and dignified jobs, justice-oriented movements are trying to de-emphasize a constant
drive for profits and instead invest in supporting the people and places which they serve. Only
when we create new modes of operating beyond a profit-centric model will we be able to
form healthier cultural norms that attempt to foster what the holiday season is supposed
to be about: an emphasis on care, interpersonal-connection, and a strong relationship with place and the
environment. Hey everyone, Charlie here. if you’ve been
watching Our Changing Climate for a while or just stumbled across this video and are
wondering how you can help me make more videos, then consider supporting the show on Patreon.
As an OCC patron, you’ll gain early access to videos, special behind the scenes updates,
as well as a members-only group chat. In addition, each month my supporters vote on an environmental
group that I then donate a portion of my monthly revenue to. So if you want to support the
channel or are feeling generous, head over to and become
an OCC patron. If you’re not interested or aren’t financially able, then no worries!
I hope you enjoyed the video, and I’ll see you in two weeks!

67 thoughts on “The problem with Black Friday.

  1. How should we better approach Black Friday and overconsumption in general? I would love your gift-giving alternatives or strategies!

  2. Canada has Pre-Black Friday, Black Friday Week, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week, Boxing Day, Boxing Week sales.
    Boxing Day is our version of Black Friday even though we still have Black Friday.

  3. honestly i used to think that black friday is like the diwali sales of america. we all wait for the diwali sales having wish lists for sometimes 6 months. only buiying electricals and for some families clothes only on diwali. but i feel like that long wait time also reduces the sales extremely around the diwali months.
    (you can even check out the stats two months before and after diwali salesdip) however would like to kmow if that is thats the case with black friday. or does consumption just increase without any dips around it ?

  4. Demanding better skills based education would allow people to repair goods that they already own, and craft things they wish to make. Basics such as sewing and cooking, going into leather, metal and woodworking, etc, these are all skills that can be learned in high school and developed into lifelong careers or at least intense hobbies.

  5. Meanwhile here in germany, I just went to Amazon, looked for a good deal for a new coffeemaker, didn't find it and left. I don't get why Americans are so obsessed with black Friday

  6. As long this type of stuff is legal it will keep happening. It would be better if it was more spread out over the year. For example an online re-tailer in the Netherlands (won't name them) they have a more spread out (week) black friday because they offer a certain category in sale for 12h, instead of every category at once (actual black friday).

  7. Im going minimalism but the biggest problem on black friday is the sale and discount…i really have to control myself😂

  8. I find Black Friday a crazy, oversonsuming mess. If you need a special item and wait until then to buy it in order to save some money, yes. But this endless shopping craze just seems way out of proportion!

  9. Could u do a video about economy for the common good
    I think it is a very good strategy against climate change and social problems u talked about in this video

  10. I have been working in retail for 10 years and this year I got a new job and is my first Thanksgiving off. I'm so happy for that. Most customers have no idea what sales people have to go through during balck Friday but besides that I can guarantee to you consumers that you are NOT getting a better deal on black Friday. I've worked for many popular and big brands and the product sold during black Friday is usually made specifically for that day. It's cheaper and poorer quality made just to bring the customers into the stores so they can shop for others products. You can get better deals during other times of the year than on black Friday. Like change of season sale for example.

  11. REI it's closed oon black Friday and they encourage people to go outside.

    Speak with your wallet people in how you support businesses.

    Think about what you need and how products got to where they are and what happens with them when you are done with them.

  12. Black Friday has been making its way over to Europe as well.. We recently had some big chains of retailers starting black week, because one day of insane consumerism isn't enough..

  13. I feel like we could alleviate so many problems if we just of course consume less, and electrify the transportation system.

  14. People just dont know to live within their needs, and they are especially unaware of the environmental impact of consumerism. Only to jump on board when "save the turtles ban straws"

  15. Thank you so much for making these kind of videos! It's so important for our future to question and really look at what we are doing in our society. In the Netherlands Black friday wasn't even a thing that long ago but with all the American companies coming to Europe it is becoming more and more populair every year.. Sadly

  16. Consumerism is a disease and human race will die from it. We have sick societies and we just go on with all this bullshit. I know a lot of people are trying to change things. Shame most of the planet will die soon enough.

  17. I have always been against the gift-giving frenzy at Christmas (or at Hanukkah, for that matter). For one thing, the stress of spending money that they cannot afford turns people into monsters. There is also the stress of trying to figure out what someone else would like to receive, with all the stress of going from one store to another in search of they know not what. The gift-giving frenzy was started by Queen Victoria, who had more money than God. It's ridiculous that people of limited means would ape a plutocrat. The gift-giving frenzy teaches children to be greedy consumers; inevitably, gift-giving inflation leaves the children disappointed, always raising the bar of expectation. The holiday season should be a time of festive feasting. Period.

  18. This is a catalyst for action. We need to end the reckless overconsumption on the streets. There will be another global climate strike on Black Friday. Let's make it even bigger!

  19. I know that Black Friday and consumerism is bad, but I have to admit I wouldn't want it to go away, because I earn 3-4 extra salaries in a few days marketing things. Before you call me selfish, let me explain – I need physiotherapy every day and mental health therapy twice a week to stay healthy. I also need good food. If BFCM would go away tomorrow I would simply get depressed because of my pain and die. I live in England and we have "social" healthcare, which is free, but they can't offer anything that I need. They can't offer me free massages and physiotherapy sessions for pain management, they can't offer free psychotherapy sessions because by their standards I'm "not depressed enough". So I have to pay for everything, thousands of pounds a month :((( I even have to rent a bigger house to accommodate all the equipment for my physio. I have to pay a private tutor who exercises with me. The free healthcare system has failed me. I don't know what other system other than capitalism would allow me to get the same things that I absolutely need every single day :(((

  20. This was a fantastic video!
    Another great actionable alternative is to join a Buy Nothing group, which will help foster a gift economy and build community. 🙂

  21. Funding decentralisation???
    Actually, I think the opposite is needed. A global government that binds nations and local communities to adopt environmental policies that have been concerted by the best experts in the world.

  22. I just want to say that I love your channel and that I'm sure this will be an amazing, informative, and thought-provoking video before I even watch it! Consumerism is like an insidious disease that most of us never notice. I have friends who buy a frankly disturbing number of clothes and other products on Black Friday despite having closets full of that stuff. It's crazy.

  23. A lot of text, but I had some thoughts I needed to write down.

    To bring another perspective very briefly touched upon, and that I was made aware of only recently: Sale-days like these are good for a lot of low-income families and others who has to watch the budget carefully. It's all well and good to talk about over-consumerism, but it's not helpful to shame people shopping on this day since we can't know their background- maybe they take the opportunity to buy things they otherwise couldn't afford? I'm not saying there was any shaming going on in this video. I'm saying some people in the discussion of Black Friday forget or disregard this perspective.

    I particularly mention low-income families because while I as an adult think it should be relatively easy for adults to avoid buying things they don't need because of norms- it's harder to do so for your kids. I don't know what the social psychology behind this is, but it seems like it's extra important to fit in when you're a kid and to be able to go do fun stuff with your friends, play a sport, be able to go to the cinema, have clothes/toys- but they cost money. Without these things and activities it can lead to worrying about money and "social exclusion" (As we have a term for in my country)

    My conclusion is that I think it's OK to shop on sales if you have to, and I'm going to change my rhetoric for how I approach the subject to not come across as shaming anyone that depend on the sales. I still think a lot of people are buying a lot more than what they need, and that second-hand is a good alternative for the people who have the time and ability. I also agree with all the other points made in the video.

  24. Thank you So much for making this video, this exact thought has been plaguing me big time in the lead up to Black Friday this year. Greta Thunberg's "Stop Shop" action should have been better emphasised in the media during her tour of the US, but perhaps that is not what the corporate media wants people to hear. And don't get me started on the irony and fraud that is Marie Kondo trying to sell people more stuff after first telling them to get rid of it.

    Having grown up in post-apartheid South Africa of the 90s and 2000s, we didn't have much of a consumer culture and nobody knew what Black Friday was because SA was quite an insular country due to sanctions during apartheid, but increasingly as our markets opened up to globalization, the US consumerist way has had a strong influence in turning us into a nation of shoppers… and debt. Now, thanks to the ridiculous marketing teams at our big stores and brands here, despite not even celebrating Thanksgiving, we are expected to celebrate Black Friday, and now suffer from the same shop stampedes that the US does, which in my view might be the clearest sign yet of 'late capitalism' and everything gone wrong with humanity.

    Ideas for gifting this Christmas season: buy people plants they can grow in their garden or in a pot! Perfect solution to ensure the gift is carbon negative!

  25. You are aware that workers struggle is a thing right? Capitalists don't care if some tiny click develop some anti-consumption lifestyle that will never reach the masses. They care if their workers strike and their shit gets shut down by force. Would expect something more serious if you actually want to see some anti-capitalist power structure, we don't win stuff by being nice.

  26. I’m a mailman and parcels have gone up since the beginning of November. We can see when there was a good sale because 2-3 days later we are slammed! Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year!

  27. I'm not all against Black Friday. It's a good way of saving money on items you really want/need. I've been eyeing on a couple of things since spring and decided I don't need them right away and should wait till Black Friday and get a deal. That's not the case for the majority of people though

  28. It's time for revolution, y'all.
    I'm glad that the capitalist system behind black friday etc is also mentioned, rather than just the problems with black friday itself

  29. Im finna buy birdseed. Can someone recommend where i can? Petsmart never caters to birds 🙁 im thinking online but i need canary type seeds for my diamonds ❤
    Damn my friend works at amazon but i havent checked on her lately

  30. So I’m super confused what’s wrong with Black Friday. How is Black Friday different then the average American or European does every other day of the week?

  31. Capitalism is like caffeine : used in moderation and correctly, it helps you remain energized and on task.
    Consumerism is like caffeine addiction & overdose: erratic behavior, health impacts, loss of focus.

    Dial back on the consumption you guys, for the betterment of us all.

  32. Black Friday has gone global. I only heard of it 2 years ago as I live in Australia where the ‘sale’ day was Boxing Day people referred to the Boxing Day sales which was the old in store retail rush (I have never been the last thing I want to do the day after Christmas is go shopping) . The last few years the Black Friday sales have been advertised here very heavily mostly online sales that go for a week.

    Also curious why is it ‘Black Friday’ if anyone knows. I always knew Black Friday to be a synonym for Friday the 13th that is until the adds started pouring in a couple of years ago Needless to say I was confused at first so I had to google it lol

  33. The argument that “Black Friday is important for poor people because they couldn’t afford _________ otherwise.” Is absolute bullshit. My husband, two kids and I live off one single income of under 30,000/year. We don’t buy that shit. We don’t need it. It’s not like it’s food. It’s not like food, rent and bills are suddenly sold for 90% off on one day. And then I can stock up on all my food, rent and bills for the year. We get minimal, modest gifts for each other, but mostly we home make treats as gifts. I can’t believe how people can be so out of their minds with consumerism that they really need to make that argument.

  34. The problem with human greed and vicious consumerism?
    Oh sorry, it's Patreon based Sermons … Less we forget Hope Labor is hoodwink.

  35. Thank you for using subtitles but one point needs to be mentioned. When you use sources, please name them. It‘s also difficult to differentiate if these numbers apply for the US or the world( e.g 1:49).

  36. Transportation emissions estimates are probably low, especially when it comes to marine transit of goods (which uses some very dirty fuels)

  37. 3:55 ……….. I couldnt disagree more. An Amazon truck is much more efficient than people taking their car to buy in a store…

  38. The production quality on your videos are always so high. Charlie, you gotta make a skillshare tutorial on your you do your videos. I'm assuming you mostly use after effects and premier? Amazing video btw.

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