Black Friday Redux: One Nation Conditioned To Shop Madly at Midnight

Reading Josh’s take on the violence occurring during Black Friday door buster sales, I thought of a post I put up on the blog last year. Josh writes,

I’m very relieved to hear of the various incidents of violence brought on by the “doorbusters” and other Black Friday-related narco-shopping come-ons.  This mad rush to buy garbage is the single best indication we have that America’s consumers (and the economy that belongs to their appetites) are alive and well.

I view this differently.

Rather than being a substantiation of underlying consumer demand, I see this morning’s mad rush more as an example of our largest retailers exploiting consumer vulnerability to behavioral conditioning to abandon restraint to satisfy material wishes.

The american consumer has little and diminishing self control after multiple generations of a cultural overemphasis on the status value of toys coupled with a collective chronic anxiety.

Last year on this date I published the post pasted below and am thinking that in the interim collective restraint has only continued to deteriorate incrementally. From this blog on November 25, 2010:

Let’s Be Honest, Wal Mart Washed Our Brains

Wal Mart ($WMT) did not invent America’s gluttony.  That saga goes back to the post World War II era, and if you want to get really macro about it, you might say that humans are predisposed, given the right circumstances, to over consumption.

And they didn’t set out to wash our brains. When $WMT began running the Black Friday 5AM Brain Buster Sale some years ago, their intentions were honorable enough in the capitalist sense. They were just trying to destroy smaller competitors proximate to their giant stores by crushing their spirits and bottom line on the most important sales day of the year.

But Wal Mart wound up conditioning the American public to frenzy lunatic fringe style leading up to and then on the day after Thanksgiving.  Pulling us about by our opioid receptors until we found ourselves waking up at 1130pm (a half an hour before we went to sleep) to stand in line so that we could buy a tv or laptop or xbox and save a few bucks.

Theyve conditioned their big box competitors as well to adopt the same behavior and the media who devours the consumption lust drama like m&m’s.

Im not really criticizing $WMT, more turning the mirror on ourselves for reflection.  They’re just running a business and trying to maximize investor returns.

What’s more, and despite such seductive operant contingencies, we are ultimately free to choose our own behaviors.

So this is only getting worse…

Perhaps next year Wal Mart will offer free peanuts and shoppers will wear camouflage and carry shot guns to Black Friday sales which begin at noon Thanksgiving Day…