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Shoppers wrestle over a television as they compete to purchase retail items on "Black Friday" at an Asda superstore in Wembley, north London November 28, 2014. Supermarket Asda, the British arm of Wal-Mart, said it will not participate in this year's Black Friday shopping frenzy, a year after brawls at one of its stores characterised the arrival of the U.S. import to Britain. Luke MacGregor / Reuters

Businesses divided over observing Black Friday

Shoppers wrestle over a television as they compete to purchase retail items on "Black Friday" at an Asda superstore in Wembley, north London November 28, 2014. Supermarket Asda, the British arm of Wal-Mart, said it will not participate in this year's Black Friday shopping frenzy, a year after brawls at one of its stores characterised the arrival of the U.S. import to Britain. Luke MacGregor / Reuters

Shoppers wrestle over a television as they compete to purchase retail items on “Black Friday” at an Asda superstore in Wembley, north London November 28, 2014. Supermarket Asda, the British arm of Wal-Mart, said it will not participate in this year’s Black Friday shopping frenzy, a year after brawls at one of its stores characterised the arrival of the U.S. import to Britain. Luke MacGregor / Reuters

By Laura Fawaz

TMO Contributing Reporter

Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. that marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, with crowds being drawn in for special offers and deals.

Even though Black Friday has been around for decades, in recent years there has been overwhelming focus on the Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales.  This has many Americans complaining that the holiday family time is being replaced with shopping.  A Facebook page was even created with the goal of stopping this tradition, and boycotting the companies that choose to open on Thanksgiving Day. Created in October 2010, “Boycott Shopping on Thanksgiving Day” began to help those who are forced to work on Thanksgiving Day, or as they put it, “Stop retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day, plucking employees from their Thanksgiving Celebrations.”  They even included a “Naughty/Nice List” that provides all the retailers that choose to either open (those that are naughty) or close (those that are nice) on Thanksgiving.  “If we don’t shop on Thanksgiving Day, it won’t be profitable for the retailers and they won’t do it again next year. It’s that simple.” the boycott page says.

Though the hype of Black Friday has dwindled down a bit there are still plenty of shoppers who camp out for deals the evening of Thanksgiving and the next morning to buy $30 DVD players at Wal-Mart.  They wait in hopes of getting, for example, a laptop or TV that is on sale. Hundreds of other people in line all wait on the same thing, with most stores only carrying a few of each sale item.

Outdoor outfitter REI decided to close all 143 of its stores across the country on Black Friday, and even making it a paid day off for all of its employees. Jerry Stritzke, REI’s president and CEO, urged employees and would-be shoppers alike to instead enjoy the great outdoors instead of waking up at the crack of dawn to stand in line Friday morning.  “We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us,” Stritzke said in a statement.

According to the boycott Black Friday Facebook page, other companies who will be closing on Thanksgiving are Costco; Sam’s Club; Nordstrom; T.J. Maxx; H&M; Staples; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and Cabela’s, just to name a few.  Some of the companies on the naughty list are Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Babies R Us / Toys R Us, ABC Warehouse, Bath & Body Works,  Dollar General, Dollar Tree, JC Penney, Macy’s, NY & Co., Sears, Ulta and Yankee Candle. None of this applies in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine due to their states’ Labor Laws prohibiting retailers from opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

One boycott member posted, “Our family plans [for Thanksgiving] were ruined after we were notified just a week ago [four weeks prior to Thanksgiving]. The corporate, HR, and management have given the [notice that] ‘you must work that day, otherwise a write up would ensue and possible termination’.”

According to the National Retail Federation, Thanksgiving and Black Friday accounted for $50.8 billion in revenue last year. Those numbers are slightly down from years past.

The Reality of Black Friday

By Suleiman Salem, TMO Foundation

Mask? Check.

Bullet-proof vest? Check.

Goggles? Check.

That completes my 2012 Black Friday shopping check-list. Apparently, shopping on Black Friday is no longer simply waiting in line, finding an item on sale, and purchasing it. According to various reports from all around the nation, there were at least ten major incidents this Black Friday. And for what? To save a few dollars.

A Walmart in California wins the first place prize for “most excruciatingly painful to watch”. Literally. A woman in her thirties couldn’t wait in line behind 20 others for an Xbox gaming console, so she derived a cunning scheme – premeditatedly – to give herself a competitive advantage. Her plan? Pepper spray the 20 lesser beings ahead of her, procure the Xbox, and leave the store without being hassled. What actually ensued was chaotic; earsplitting screams, blazing eyes, agonizing coughs, and a near-stampede. The woman then realized what a pathetic mistake she had made and hastily rushed out of the store. According to police reports, she didn’t end up purchasing the Xbox that was only $50 discounted.

Pepper-spray aside, there were brawls in many stores, gunshots fired in others, pandemonium over a $2 waffle-maker, and a few robberies, hence the checklist for personal safety. Nevertheless, the people are not completely at fault. Acknowledge that mankind will forever comprise of unintelligent, reckless, babbling shoppers. If Black Friday was not over-exaggerated and hyped up by every store and newspaper, online or in print, the masses wouldn’t be uncontrolled. Furthermore, many people don’t realize that they’re actually being ripped off by prices that have been raised before being slashed for Black Friday. To top that off, most of these deals were available throughout the year, when deal-hunters, including myself, were raiding the World Wide Web in search of the best deals, many of which topped Black Friday discounts.

From an Islamic perspective, there is nothing wrong with wanting to purchase discounted items. There is, however, something majorly wrong with someone who camps out for hours and spends all night saving money, but throughout the rest of the year doesn’t bother giving such priority to acts of worship. We may all look like devout, pious worshipers in front of our communities, but ultimately, all one needs is a reality check: am I giving my Lord, the Creator and Sustainer, the same priority I’m giving a sales frenzy?  Or am I neglecting even the most rudimentary acts of worship? After all, our material wealth is temporary and will one day cease to exist. Our good deeds, however, last an eternity.

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