It’s a time to surround yourself with loved ones, gather around a warm hearth, and be thankful for what you have. On the other hand, Thanksgiving is immediately followed by Black Friday – a time to surround yourself with total strangers, stand in line outside in the cold, and eventually wrestle a flat screen from the hands of a 70-year old.
Ok, maybe that’s a little bit harsher interpretation of the shopping holiday, but it’s nothing less than it deserves. According to Forbes:
“Black Friday has become a tradition to kick off the holiday shopping season. It’s all about the money. It’s about customers saving money and retail stores offering great deals to increase their sales. It’s a tradition to kick off the holiday shopping season.”
How about a round of applause for the epic journalism going on over there at Forbes? They had so little to say about the ‘holiday’ that they called it a “tradition to kick off the holiday shopping season” twice in one paragraph.
I’ve personally always hated black Friday. I understand it has its positive implications (boosting the economy, providing deals to help families afford Christmas, thinning out the weak, etc.), but the juxtaposition between Black Friday and Thanksgiving has always amazed me.
I mean, you literally go from a holiday that’s sole purpose is being thankful for what you have, being grateful for the little things like putting food on the table, and within hours of gorging yourself on a turkey carcass you’re already standing outside of a Best Buy checking things you want off a list. And not to be a total bummer, it’s gotten worse.
I’ve heard of some families having Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday just so they can stand in line sooner. After all, nothing says ‘family time’ like a pup tent and lukewarm hot cocoa in a Target parking lot.
Some retailers have responded by extending their sales even earlier to accommodate, some even opening on Thanksgiving Day itself. Yeah, that’s right, for some people Thanksgiving isn’t as much of a holiday as it is the preamble for America’s most ratchet day of the year.
Maybe it’s just a gluttony thing.
I mean, we go from gorging ourselves on enough food to feed a Somali village for a month to buying enough electronics to support the GDP of Cambodia. Maybe the true meaning of the “modern Thanksgiving” in America is embracing the excess and our existence as human locusts who can’t stop eating, buying, and grabbing.
Luckily, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope has sprung from the darkness, thanks to REI.
I would keep speaking, but the company’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, says it best:
“As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money. We (REI) believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors. We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday. Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”
Think about this for a second. It wasn’t a person, a politician, or the pope who called for a change in Black Friday behavior. Even after people DIED that wasn’t enough to convince us the value of a doorbuster deal is greater than a human life.
No, it was a company. A company that said, “You guys have enough shit already, and it’s cruel to make our employees work just to get treated like human garbage. Go outside.”
REI isn’t your traditional retailer. They’re actually a co-op, not a corporation, which means that customers are actually ‘members’ who buy into their products and receive a “dividend” check at the end of the year to spend on future purchases—a loyalty program without those stupid points, essentially. But regardless of their business model, REI is realizing something, or rather, embodying something.
By standing for something as a company, by embracing the nature of what their business is, and by actually becoming the things they stand for, they can build a much more lasting and authentic connection with consumers.
Instead of just selling outdoor gear and apparel, they’re becoming the facilitators of outdoor exploration and building a lifestyle around their brand in a way that’s believable—because it’s actually true.
Corporate America, take a page (or two) from REI’s playbook.
They want to adapt to the conscientious consumers of tomorrow, who actually do care what their brand stands for more than just a sale.
With their #OptOutside movement, REI is inviting the nation to join them in celebrating nature, loved ones, and the outdoors in general. They’re closing all 143 stores to give their employees time to head outside and be with their families. They’re reconnecting us with something we truly should be thankful for, this beautiful country we call home.
As shocking as it is, REI is celebrating Thanksgiving.