I fucking hate Tesco. I hate their patronising slogan. It irks me that they flatten hundreds of family run shops or small businesses every year. They pay their shop floor employees fuck all. Their brand products are all, without exception, absolutely minging, and they’re ubiquitous, but…yeah, that’s actually a positive in this instance as there’s one a five minute walk away from me on Maryhill Road. Even better some of their stores are open twenty-four hours a day, as the one closest to me is.
Or so I assumed, as I turned up to find it wasn’t early last Friday morning. You see, as I’m completely unconcerned with most vacuous cultural phenomenon, it hadn’t registered that it was “Black Friday”, the product of a quintessential American trait – cultishly venal capitalism, that’s been shamelessly transplanted to all four corners of the globe. Regardless, quite why this meant that the twenty-four hour Tesco in Maryhill would be shut at 6:45am on “Black Friday” I wasn’t sure. That is, until I did some reading on last year’s mania that occurred on “Black Friday”.
Remaining closed until 7:30 in the morning was, I assume, to allow them to prepare for any onslaught, but at a reasonable hour, and I hope, but doubt, to show compassion for their staff. The Tesco bosses seemed convinced that if they let them, these peculiar, paganistic, rabid, shameless, fixated, unfulfilled, desperate because they’re unfulfilled shoppers would burst through the doors at one minute past midnight to fight over televisions, laptops, toasters, and the assorted garishly cheap kitsch that seems to only be produced to quench rampant materialism.
I’ll confess that I find the love others have for shopping confusing. At best it’s boring and time consuming, at worst you feel like you’re being extorted. It doesn’t matter how you do it, either online (clearly the lesser of the two evils) or in person, which is now an unbearable experience where you have to navigate aisles filled with people not watching or caring where they’re going. Sometimes they’re looking at their iPhones (because they’re bored), or scanning the shelves while on the phone to someone else (because they need reassurance or advice for something this banal). Invariably you’ll encounter a couple thoroughly debating which salad dressing to buy. Or worse yet they have their kids with them, and in an attempt to placate them for the depressingly mind-numbing ordeal of being dragged around a supermarket, they’ve been indulged with enough sugar to send them into mouth foaming hyperactivity (just to raise the collective family blood pressure even more). Most commonly you see shoppers just wandering around in that overwhelmed trance like state that seems to descend when too much choice and too little time combine to create perpetual indecision.
But that’s what makes “Black Friday” different. It’s been cleverly constructed to ensure consumer indecision is vanquished. Customers are aware in advance of the promise of a discount, so the decision to buy something has already been made, as it’s easier to justify when you’re getting a bargain, or believe you are. This is motivated by an attempt to right a perpetual injustice foisted upon consumers for the convenience supermarkets offer, as we all know that, deep down, we vastly overpay for pretty much everything in them. Throw Black Friday’s timing into the mix, Christmas is all but a month away, and unless you’re a selfish narcissist like me you’ll have already given some thought as to what to get your mum, dad, sister, daughter or husband for the biggest annual extortion of them all. All you need to do is find something that matches what you had in mind and it’ll have been a success. You’ll have beaten, or ‘gamed’, the system, just this once.
The explanation for the extreme examples of brawling for Black Friday bargains we’re shown is simple, it’s a manifestation, or better yet a means of releasing the pressure we put on ourselves to make our wages count when married with the natural selection instinct to subjugate and hoard at the expense of competitors. This takes many forms, some ingrained into our cultural identity by tradition – getting on the housing ladder is the most common, and specific to Black Friday it’s an extreme affectation of what motivates people to queue outside a shop overnight for the latest gadgetry advance, as they derive pride and receive acclaim by the very thought of being able to reminisce that they were one of the first to have the right to buy the latest games console or smartphone.
I recognise that any endeavours, which are impulse driven, are rarely rational, but Black Friday’s case, will you, three years from now, lament your failure to secure a bargain, that saved you, say, £65? Of course not, it’s about feeding instant validation, especially in the digital age where money is mostly theoretical, so being able to boost your vanity and self-worth with physical representations of earnings and wealth carries more significance than ever. But any justifications for partaking in the event are never as honest as that. Why would one of those who were victorious on “Black Friday”, relinquish the opportunity to bask in the superciliousness its narrative affords? ‘I suffered just to get it for you babe. I went in the trenches, just like my great-grandfather did at the Somme, and survived going over the top (literally I did – this Samsung S6 came from the top of the tower) and held on to it for dear life as the limbs and gnashing teeth whirled around me, and when some dickhead blocked the checkout I escaped by bayoneting him with my car key’.
Perhaps I should be thankful that I was spared an ordeal worse than what usually constitutes my regular Supermarket Sweep (I just wanted to buy some dental floss, eggs, tomatoes, tangerines, a lettuce, a pack of Twixes and some milk), but in reality nobody is quite desperate enough to go all ‘Midnight Express’ just after midnight on Friday morning at a twenty-four hour supermarket. Still, as I’m (hopefully?) moving to Knightswood in January, these precautionary measures will probably never inconvenience me again. Or do they observe Black Friday the same way there too?