Imagine if retailers held a nationwide Super-Spectacular Sales Day — and no one came?
I don't mean customers, but that sales staff, cashiers and even managers wouldn't show up to open the doors for the usual sale-a-mania frenzy of mass, crass, crazy consumerism. But that's silly, of course, even slightly un-American to think that stores wouldn't open to cash in on a hugely promoted retail bonanza.
Yet, there it is. REI, the national purveyor of outdoor gear and sporting goods, says it will no longer participate in the shopping spectacle called "Black Friday," the day of nonstop door-buster sales that now overwhelms Thanksgiving. This holiday is meant to be a calm, family-oriented time to get away from all the hubbub of life and reflect on our blessings — but in recent years, such national chains as Macy's and Walmart have led a corporate assault on Thanksgiving with a buy-buy-buy blitz of consumer come-ons. "Rush to the mall," shout the barrage of Black Friday ads — enticing us to reduce our values to the shallow concept of monetary value — i.e., lower-priced stuff. They've turned this contemplative day of thanks into a weekend of worshipping mammon.
"Enough!" says REI. The national retail co-op with 143 stores and $2.2 billion a year in sales is raising the ethical bar by canceling its participation in Black Friday. Instead of shopping on the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, REI is urging its employees and customers to break out — literally. Take a walk with family and friends, enjoy a bike ride, visit a public park and otherwise get outside the soul-suffocating syndrome of constant consumerism.
What a concept: Don't shop — live! Connect with people, nature, the spirits... and yourself. For more information, go to REI's special website, OptOutside.REI.com, and #OptOutside.
You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.