Don’t fall for holiday buying hype

00-drjuliannemalveauxThe term “Black Friday” does not refer to Black people, but to the Friday after Thanksgiving when retailers can forecast whether they will end the year “in the black.” Sellers have become far more aggressive in trying to separate consumers from their dollars because they depend on fourth-quarter sales to make a profit.

Don’t fall for the holiday hype.  The big box stores will advertise unbelievable bargains – a 58-inch widescreen TV for $129, for example.  What they won’t tell you is that they have exactly five of them.

They are hoping that you will get to the store early, stand in line, and when you learn there are no more cheap TV bargains, you’ll buy something else.

Fools for ‘deals’
Meanwhile, you and the other fools who stood in line all day or night will perform for the cameras that record you stampeding through the store, trampling each other, in search of “deals.”

Why not consider the meaning of holidays  – “holy days”?  Why not use these last few weeks of the year to do some of the good we neglected to do earlier in the year?  Why not show love, regard, respect through words and deeds, and not through stuff?  Why feed the great consumer machine that exploits consumers?

If there is shopping that should be done, why not spend your dollars with Black-owned businesses, and also on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving).?  Why not gift your friends with great books?

As you contemplate holiday giving, consider Maggie Anderson’s “Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy.” Anderson’s book is both sobering and empowering.  Sobering – it was a chore to buy Black because Black folks don’t own things like gas stations.  Empowering – it was important to see how Black business could be strengthened with more patronage.

Make the effort
Unfortunately, African-Americans spend less than ten percent of our income with Black businesses.  While there are “reasons,” there are also reasons we should go out of our way to support Black business.  Supporting Black business generates jobs in our communities, which means providing opportunities for some of the young people who desperately need employment.

According to a Gallup consumer survey, Americans plan to spend $830 on gifts this year – 15 percent more than we spent in 2014, and more than any year since 2007.  Think before you spend, and let your spending reflect your values.

You appreciate small businesses?  Shop with them.  You care about Black entrepreneurship?  Look for Black businesses.  If you can’t find a bricks and mortar store, shop online.

And don’t go galloping down the aisles of a big box store and get featured on the news chasing that elusive bargain.  Holidays, our holy days, ought to be our season to be grateful, not our season to spend mindlessly.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer.

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