Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday

My sister and I did Black Friday for a few years, but eventually we came to the conclusion that we were broke and hated 6 AM, and the deals were never really good enough to justify getting up before dawn.  My attitude towards Black Friday became one of curious apathy--I wasn't really interested, but I could probably be convinced to go if I saw something I wanted or if I just wanted to get out of the house.

This year I'm just pissed off by the news that Black Friday is starting at some point on Thursday, especially since it's coming with the news that some employees are being pressured to work 8+ shifts.  I'm aware that most retailers will pay time and a half on holidays, but there's a difference between volunteering to take the better rate and feeling like your job's at stake if you don't.  I'm also aware that many stores will fall over backwards to make sure those 8-10 hour shifts don't earn overtime or make their employees eligible for full time benefits.  If you've had the pleasure of working almost any hourly job that promises great benefits for full time employees, you'll know how carefully the schedule is tailored to make sure nobody goes over 39 hours.

I'm aware that my  boycott loses something when I don't really have a lot of money to spend anyway.  While I want you to admire my noble sacrifice, I know the Big Box retailers who're pulling this shit aren't even going to notice that Kate, Destitute Grad Student and Educator, is not buying any large TVs or [fad toy].  So, here are some alternatives for those of you who are also pissed off with Black Friday and huge sales on crap nobody needs.

If you're crafty or want to be, the Craftster boards contain tutorials, advice, and inspiration for pretty much everything.  It's also community policy that you can't use the boards to try to sell yourself or promote your blog, so shameless self-promotion is limited to links in users' signatures.

Pretty much every major yarn brand offers free knit, crochet, and craft patterns on their websites if you're willing to give them your email and create a password.  Some of them are also on Facebook and will occasionally post about sales and show examples of knit and crochet patterns.

If you'd like to give handmade gifts without having to make them yourself, try Etsy.  I've complained about Etsy before, and there's some crap out there, but there's crap in every store.  It helps if you have a certain item in mind when you search, and read the seller's feedback and profile.  Etsy will also keep you from having to say things like, "Are you allergic to cats?  I'm just curious.  I'm not asking because my cat took a nap on your present or anything."  Although to definitely avoid having to say that, read the seller's profile.  Most crafters will say if they have a pets or other allergens to avoid problems after the sale.  If anyone tries to tell you their cat never gets anywhere near their crafting supplies, they're either lying or delusional.

If everybody you know already has too much stuff, go for food and drink gifts.  People like eating and drinking, and food and booze eventually gets consumed.

You don't need to buy some overpriced gift basket--just find a good cookie recipe and abuse the hell out of it.  Hell, people even like lazy cookies.  When I bring in desserts, people get the most excited about place and bake cookies and candy covered Oreos.

Most winos have limited brand loyalty--if you buy them wine, they will drink it.  If possible, support your local wineries.  Yes, you're going to pay a bit more for wine from smaller, local wineries, but the Coppolas and the Mondavis and the Barefoots have enough damn money.  If you're the type who buys yourself something while Christmas shopping, visit a winery, taste a bunch of wines, then buy some bottles as gifts.  Sure, you were probably slightly drunk, but saying, "I tried this at a tasting and thought of you" sounds much more sophisticated than, "I got hammered at the mall."

Despite all this hippy bullcrap about rethinking gift buying and giving, I will say that handmade coupons are a pile of crap and you know it.  If you're over the age of ten, don't give coupons.  Coupons are always for things you're supposed to do anyway, and most of the time no one is able to actually redeem them.  Actual coupons for the grocery store would be a slightly better gift that "This entitles the bearer to one (1) free hug."

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