Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No "Black Friday" please, we're Canadian

As a Canadian, I have to live with the knowledge that many of my neighbours to the south believe that I am a wannabe American. I don't actually think this is true or even fair, but it is true that we are absolutely saturated in imported American culture. Which occasionally causes embarrassing culture creep like the example above.

"Black Friday" is the day after American Thanksgiving, and the observed start of the earnest Christmas shopping season south of the border. It is named after the belief that it's the day when retailers go "in the black" for the first time in the calendar year, because that day brings so much instant business.

To make this happen, stores offer incredible discounts on certain in-demand products in limited quantities. Which causes customers to line up hours in advance for "door-crasher" promotions, and stampede into the stores causing mayhem and injuries. And as stores try to one-up each other for the business, "Black Friday" has turned into "Black Thursday After Thanksgiving Dinner" for many unfortunate, un-unionzed retail employees.

Not only is the third Friday in November meaningless on the Canadian calendar, it's an ugly symbol of selfish consumerism trumping human decency. But worst of all, it's as "wannabe American" as you can get.

When I brought this topic up on Facebook, a friend and reader pointed out that Canadian businesses are mimicking American cousins to try to stem the flow of one-way cross-border shopping that happens every November. And these promotions really do increase sales for a day.

But I still don't like it. Our Thanksgiving was last month, and the start of our Christmas shopping season was last week (after Remembrance Day). If Canadian retailers want to fight back against the lure of the south on one day a year, why not do so in a uniquely Canadian way? Make the third Friday in November "Buy Canadian Day" and offer the same sales with a smirk and an "eh?," eh?

I just hope we can do better than this.