Black Friday discounts fail to reach those who need them most

It would be overwhelmingly repetitive to denounce Black Friday again this November, since America has clearly not yet lost its obsession with blatant consumerism and has little chance of ever kicking the habit. The creation of the website “blackfridaydeathcount.com” tells it all — since 2006 there have been 90 injuries and seven deaths in which people were stabbed, trampled and shot, all in the name of discounted merchandise.

What many don’t consider is that Black Friday itself isn’t a bad idea: a day or two where consumers can buy much-needed items for a fraction of the price would be of enormous benefit to lower-income families all across America. But more often than not, it’s members of those same families who are working the registers at establishments like Walmart, where Black Friday sales are renowned for markdowns, and as consumers and citizens we should be aware of that injustice.

According to Slate, the federal government doesn’t keep tabs on the number of Americans working for a particular company currently dependent on food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It does mention, however, that the state of Ohio — which is the focal point of the article — keeps a list of the top 50 companies in the state with the most employees on SNAP. Not surprisingly, Walmart occupies the No. 1 position and as of last year had more than 7,000 individual employees on food stamps. That number comprised 15 percent of Ohio’s workforce and does not include the family members dependent upon and being supported by those employees.

It’s difficult to determine how Utah fares in comparison, but the 2010 Annual Poverty Report for Utah showed that 11.5 percent of Utahns were living at or below the poverty level, up 20 percent since 2008. The number of impoverished citizens in our state is clearly on the rise, and it’s logical to assume that these citizens will be searching for employment wherever they can. We can all agree that in the majority of cases minimum wage jobs are occupied by those who lack the means to procure higher paid positions, due to lack of education or qualification, among other reasons.

This is what needs to be kept in mind when we prepare ourselves for the mad rush that is Black Friday. As we fight tooth and nail for a subpar TV that’s 85 percent off, brandishing it victoriously at the register before we make our purchase, we remain completely oblivious to the fact that the person ringing us up may not be able to afford that same item on any other day of the year except today. American consumerism has bred us to pursue the lowest prices possible when we shop, but that doesn’t justify injuring others during Black Friday and neglecting the fact that though an item may be ridiculously discounted, someone else may need that discount more.

Though there are several accounts for the origin of the name “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving has always been regarded as the first day of the Christmas season and, therefore, the day to start shopping. Black Friday has always revolved around materialism, but that doesn’t mean it has to be mindless. As sappy as it sounds, most believe the holiday season to be a time to celebrate family and friendship, and our behavior — even on Black Friday — should reflect that.

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