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Column: On Black Friday, ditch the mall and get outside

BY   November 24, 2016 at 3:06 PM EST
A new movement encourages people to ditch the mall and head outside on Black Friday. Photo by Marla Rutherford and Getty Images

A growing movement encourages people to ditch their shopping plans and head outside on Black Friday. Photo by Marla Rutherford and Getty Images

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go…and then to the mall?

I have never really understood the concept of Black Friday, and I can’t really think of anything that goes more against the grain of the holiday spirit then getting in line on Thanksgiving evening to be in position at the stroke of midnight as doors are flung open and people stampede in to take advantage of deep discounts on the latest electronic and other gadgets.

Who is responsible? The companies who must rely on their employees to come in on Thanksgiving Eve so they can ensure profits? (Some stores, including Macy’s, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Walmart and Target continue to be open on Thanksgiving Day.) Or the willingness of consumers to be tempted by the deep-discount incentives?

Potential good news? 74 million people shopped on Black Friday in 2015, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation; that’s a 15 percent drop from 87 million in 2014, and 92 million in 2013.

If Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks, for family, for friendship, for the intangible riches of this life, it seems to me to run completely counter to running out and buying the latest and greatest materialistic product.

To borrow a line from A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Oh, No. My own dog gone commercial, I can’t stand it!”

Meanwhile, some businesses are going in the opposite direction. While Seattle Co-op Retailer REI has traditionally closed its stores on Thanksgiving Day, this is the second year that they will be closed on Black Friday, giving all 12,000 employees the day off to “head outside.” Through the social media hashtag #optoutside, the movement has attracted 275 companies as partners, including Subaru, Google and Upworthy, and the company hopes to add to the 1.4 million people last year who joined to explore the outdoors. (Not all partners are actually closing their doors.) This year’s catchphrase: “Will you go OUT with me?”

So this year, on Black Friday, take your dog for a walk, go on a hike, explore a beach, get out on the water, play a board game, spend time with those who matter.

Just don’t go to the mall.

Oh, also remember to put down your phone. The people around you will thank you.

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