Black Friday comes but once a year—the day when, all over America, shoppers looking for incredible bargains on consumer electronics and other must-have items that can only be afforded if they show up at Walmart at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving (as “Black Friday,” increasingly, begins on Thursday night). And while we can anticipate, say, hastily-shot videos popping up on YouTube of people tearing each other apart for the chance to obtain a 50-inch television for $200, there are interesting preparations going around throughout the state of Texas—from the top to the very bottom—in anticipation of this year’s Black Friday festivities.
In Grand Prairie, the planned activities are less of a traditional “let’s gorge ourselves on discounted merchandise” and more of a “let’s come together for the proletariat.” As the Dallas Morning News reports, employees of the Walmart in Grand Prairie are planning to join with other Walmart workers around the country to strike in protest of the chain’s meager wages:
Walmart workers unhappy about low pay and poor working conditions will launch Black Friday protests at 1,600 stores nationwide, including a Walmart Supercenter in Grand Prairie.
The protests are part of a campaign to prod the nation’s largest retailer to pay workers at least $15 an hour and offer more workers full-time jobs.
Organizers describe next week’s planned action as the largest Walmart worker strike to date.
It may be the largest Walmart worker strike to date, but it wouldn’t be the first to occur around Black Friday in North Texas: In 2012, Black Friday strikes were planned at the chain in Dallas, and employees of seven different Walmart stores in the area held similar actions last year, albeit on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, instead of the lucrative Friday after. It’s unclear at the moment how many employees will be joining in the action, but recent history suggests that there will be more people inside the store fighting for bargain televisions than there will be people outside of it with picket signs.
Way down on the other end of the state, meanwhile, in the battle between “consumerism” and “tradition,” consumerism has clearly claimed victory. In McAllen, we are currently entering Day Nine of several families’ twelve-day process of camping out in front of the local Best Buy, off of US-83, to be first among customers to receive the chain’s biggest bargains. As The Monitor reports:
Maribel Nuñez said her son camped out ahead of Black Friday last year, hoping to score a deal on a TV set.
But even after spending a week outside a local big box store as one of the first camps in line, he wasn’t there soon enough.
“Last year my son was waiting for a week and was about the third or fourth tent,” the Pharr woman said. “But the person waiting in the first tent brought like 20 people on that day and he wasn’t able to get the TV he wanted.”
That won’t happen this year, Nuñez said. She and about 10 family members already have their camp set up outside Best Buy, 700 S. Jackson Road, where they have been since Sunday [November 16th].
A twelve-day camp-out in front of a big box store in a strip mall doesn’t sound like the absolute most pleasant way one could spend the month of November, but it probably beats a seven-day camp-out that doesn’t even end with you getting the items you most wanted. The paper reports that—as of last Friday—there were at least two other camps in front of the same location.
There is something a bit depressing about the idea of people giving up twelve days that could be spent doing any number of productive activities to sit in front of a Best Buy, but that sort of cynicism is misplaced in the holiday season. At the very least, the weather in the Rio Grande Valley is pleasant this time of year (a mild 68 degrees at press time!), and with modern technology, most of the comforts of home can be experienced even from a tent in a Best Buy parking lot. Furthermore, spending nearly two weeks camped out alongside strangers who, when the doors open, will become fierce competitors for the limited-quantity doorbusters is a great opportunity for practicing presumably-friendly camaraderie before it transforms into a heated struggle for what each party needs for their families, important skills one will need in the event of a zombie apocalypse. (Of course, in the event of said zombie apocalypse, Best Buy’s discounted tablets will be valued more for their ability to crack the shells off of fallen nuts, or to reflect sunlight in the eyes of potential predators.)
In any case, it’s probably kind of fun out in that parking lot, as the days grow shorter and the Thursday evening opening time approaches. At the very least, our bizarre new American holiday is getting a bizarre new twist.