Black Friday chaos – was it worth it?

"Ima get an Xbox" - "The Shoppers" by William Glacken. Source: Wikimedia Commons
“Ima get an Xbox” – “The Shoppers” 1907-1908 by William Glacken. Source: Wikimedia Commons

UK retailers will be incredibly happy in the run up to Christmas. Some imported products don’t do well in other countries. You’d think that, without the exposition of Thanksgiving the day before, Black Friday would be one of them. It wasn’t.

Retailers expected around £720million of sales, but us British were determined to show that we can become mindless, frenzied madman for a half-price electric toothbrush like the best of them, and racked up £810million worth of online spending. We spent more on Black Friday this year than we did on Cyber Monday for the first time in history. That’s being considered an achievement by some, although if I were to spend a personal best on Batman comics I doubt my fiancé’s first reaction would be to give me a certificate.

I, like so many other British people, watched the chaos in disbelief. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good bargain. I’m just not prepared to take part in a reconstruction of the final battle from The Dark Knight Rises just to save 80 quid on a telly. Bargains are important, and being able to save money is a very useful life skill. But what happened to the thing we British are so valued and famed for: what happened to our decorum?

…if you’re fighting a woman for a pair of knickers, today is clearly going wrong for you.

There used to be a time when we wouldn’t even show any emotion at our own parent’s funerals. And while I’m not saying the displays of emotion should be reserved to doffing our hats and challenging blaggards to duels, I do think perhaps we could do with a little lesson in restraint. After all, if you’re fighting a woman for a pair of knickers, there should be a point where you wonder why today’s going so wrong.

In previous years is was us who looked at the displays of violence and desperation in America’s Black Friday sales and shook our heads. And yet in just a few short years that has become us. Whatever happened to queueing? Whatever happened to the British who would queue through the Apocalypse in order to get on the one spaceship to leave Earth safely? What happened to the people who would rather die than trouble those nice ambulance people?

Could it be the recession? Did Black Friday give us the chance to do Christmas at a more affordable price? It’s nice to be able to spend money again, and spend money we did; John Lewis sold a tablet per second on Black Friday (source: The Guardian). Maybe we were so frantic because we wanted to make sure that our children, families, and loved ones had the presents they deserved this year, without us having to break the bank to do it. Christmas is, after all, a rather strenuous time for family finances. Can anyone really be blamed for trying to save some money?

Build it and they will come. Or, rather: reduce it and they will beat the pants off each other to get to the checkout.

But when you see that the people who were so desperate to get hold of television sets at an £80 discount are now trying to sell them on eBay, you have to wonder.

Should the consumers be to blame? We’ve been conditioned to want things, and it’s natural to want the lowest price. Getting bargains is common sense. Saving money is a talent to be respected. If you leave a plate of biscuits alone in a room with a Golden Retriever for an hour, can you really be surprised when you come back and find that it has eaten them all? Build it and they will come. Or, rather: reduce it and they will beat the pants off each other to get to the checkout.

Britain has managed to survive all the other major sales we get throughout the year. Perhaps the news is just trying to play up to the Black Friday stereotype.

What we have to remember is that ‘Britain enjoys Black Friday deals in an orderly and dignified manner’ would be a very boring news headline. Of course we’re going to hear about the places where people went wild. Of course we’re going to see two people locked in a deadly duel to the death with a pair of ladles over a set of non-stick frying pans. Not everyone went Black Friday crazy. Many people just got on with it, the shops were a little busier, and lots of people got a good bargain. Britain has managed to survive all the other major sales we get throughout the year. Perhaps the news is just trying to play up to the Black Friday stereotype.

But it does leave me saddened. I’m not against consumerism, and I think that what some people call materialism I would call enjoying life. But to see people get this desperate, this frantic, over a saving is rather embarrassing. Fighting over discount televisions…is it really worth it? Is it worth having to be that person: the one on the news, the one at whom the world shakes their heads, just for a bargain?

Did you grab any Black Friday bargains? Tell me your Black Friday stories below.

I just bought two hardback books for £2 and now I’m sad

photo(1)Turns out discount books aren’t always a book-lovers dream.

Like pretty much every other reader out there, I have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. It’s almost like a hobby in itself. There is no real logical reason for buying more – some of my previous purchases have been waiting unread on a shelf for years now. But a book is full of potential. You can lock it in a cupboard and it’ll patiently wait for decades if it must, and be in perfect condition when you do finally open that door and retrieve it, unlike many of the other good things in life, such as ice cream, or your best friend.

So when I saw books by Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton on the shelf of my local Tesco for £1 each, the ol’ book buying demon reared its head once more. It’s just plain stupid to turn down a book at that price. And they were hardbacks, mind you. Hard covers are like lingerie for books. Considering they are about £18.99 usually, I’ve potentially saved myself about £36. That’s the kind of saving it’s worth buying stuff you don’t even want for. I’d buy seven horses and a bucket of locusts if they were £1.

However, I’m not totally excited. I’m also a bit sad. Books shouldn’t be sold for a £1. Not actual books, in a proper shop, by big name authors, covered in saucy cardboard and paper jackets. A book isn’t the kind of thing you should find in a pound discount section, or a pound shop. It’s not like a terrible plastic toy that will break within two minutes of being opened, forty day old ham, or three Polos wrapped in clingfilm with a sticker on them saying ‘valyou pacc’.

Books last forever. They give you untold pleasure, invite you to meet worlds and characters you can fall in love with. They make you laugh, they make you cry, they make you look clever when you’re sat in Costa and everyone else is on their iPad. It’s an experience, and of much more value than £1.

You could argue that it’s a moot point. I bought the books, after all. Can’t really complain about the price being too low, can I?

Except that I can. The reason I am complaining about the stupidly low priced books is the same reason I bought the stupidly low priced books. For a stupidly low price. I’m a book lover. And I don’t think it’s possible to take a side without being a hypocrite.

However, the novel is an art form. It’s not right that someone is prepared to spend millions on a varnished toilet made of bread, while top author’s books are being sold at a massive discount. I doubt anyone made much money out of that. It’s hard not to buy books when they’re cheap, because after all that’s what I want.

The recession has driven the price of most things up. I don’t think it’s right that art is where we decide to try and save a few quid.

Don’t forget you can still sign up for your chance to win 5 signed paperbacks for Halloween!