Black Friday, a dark day.

by John Darvall

On Friday 28th November 2014 people were queuing at midnight and police were called to deal with scuffling crowds as fights broke out. This was not the end of days due to rumoured shortages or social unrest at austerity and the lack of a pay rise for years, although the pictures might imply otherwise. This was all about shopping and buying stuff. This was all about want, not need. This was about a bargain. This was Black Friday, the most successful day on-line merchant of everything Amazon ever had. Their sales “surpassed all expectations”, selling more than 5.5 million items. This was about billions of pounds being spent. Black Friday has arrived and we all loved it.

Being in the ‘black’ is about being in credit. This is how business entered income into the sales ledger in the time before the PC, in black ink. Being in the ‘red’ is about being in debt, entered in the books in red ink. So the irony of creating a day called Black Friday to get you and me to shop for a bargain or three should not be lost on us. The chances are that on day so named about being in credit may well have pushed many further in to debt.

One of the biggest con tricks that has been played on us all by successive governments and the financial Services industry is changing the word ‘debt’ into ‘credit’. A credit card or a loan is a debt and to call it anything else is delusional, yet we have all become deluded. Since the invention of the credit card in the early 1970’s our governments have created a financial world, through ‘light touch regulation’, to convince us all that credit is good, buying things you want but don’t need is good and more stuff you have the better your life is. And if you don’t have enough stuff, get another credit card or more easy, flexible credit (terms and conditions apply) and it can be yours. Even Mortgages, a word based on the French for death, have been re-branded to be less scary and more cuddly Home Loans. How cute because there is no place like home, even if you will never actually, really own one and you are in debt, sorry credit, for the rest of your life.

Black Friday is, of course, a business construct. It is a simple marketing tool to get us to buy goods, so perpetuating the consumer lead recovery much denied by our current government. They wanted our recovery to be a manufacturing led recovery, built on making things and on construction. Actually the only real government construction I’ve noticed being done are the concrete walls springing up dividing our motorway carriages. These concrete walls in our central reservations are a very strange bit of new infrastructure. If I were to crash on a motorway I’d rather hit a metal ribbon than a concrete wall.

Black Friday was simple to create, based on the post Thanks Giving holiday from our american cousins. Here in the UK it married the last working day of the month with the last payday before Christmas. It marketed and advertise deals that had to be had and we the willing consumer, flush with our hard-earned cash and ‘credit cards’ were ripe for the buying. And we shopped. I bought a coat.

So what does Black Friday say about us, about you? Is this time of year about a great deal on a Smart telly or a coat? Is this time of year about eating, drinking and making merry? Is this time of year about excess or is it actually about something else? I am not a religious man. I will leave that for others but I do worry that getting a 40’’ Smart TV for £120 is more important for some than anything else. This worries me and it should worry you too.

If Black Friday doesn’t worry you then you always have Cyber Monday and the Boxing Day sales to come. And you can buy more stuff on-line on Christmas afternoon. The baby Jesus would be so proud.