Black Friday: what REI did and why it matters

Black Friday is a mess. Beside the tales of people being trampled underfoot or starting fights over the last toaster oven, the mere prospect of waking up at three-in-the-freaking-morning was always enough to turn me off from even considering going. Nevertheless, I know many people go Black Friday shopping. Excluding the rare few who are religious about it, it only takes one or two times for people to never want to go again. So if stores offer the deals of a lifetime that supposedly get better every year, why do so many people begrudgingly fight their fear of missing out and stay home? The obvious answer: the crowds and the stress suck. The less obvious answer: it’s a philosophical issue. And the outdoors co-op REI addressed it this past week.

I’m fond of thinking exercises. I think a little bit of reflection every now and then is very healthy; it helps us put our life into context. Even the easy exercises like thinking about doing something you enjoy and trying to figure out why you enjoy it are great. Which is exactly what I want you to do at this point in the article.

Think about your absolute favorite things to do in your free time. I’m talking about the things that you make sure to set aside time to do, no matter how busy you are, because rewarding yourself is imperative to a healthy and enjoyed life. These things are different for everyone, varying in both intellectual and physical intensity and many other criteria.

My family embodies this variety well. For example, my dad enjoys the simple things. He has to perform in a high-stress job that deals with potentially hundreds of people a day. When he gets home, he likes to disconnect by working in the yard. The hum of the lawn mower puts his mind at ease after the blabbering he has to listen to all day. He also rewards himself by having a beer and sitting with his family and our dogs at night to unwind. These are simple, easy things and they ease his soul.

So having thought about what you like best, figured out why, and then read my lovely example, it’s time to relate them back to REI’s stance on Black Friday. REI stands for Recreational Equipment Inc., and it follows the co-op business model that allows customers to invest in the company, which effectively makes them a member. At the end of each year, every member receives dividends based on the company’s profits. This is a special business model because it fosters a sense of community between the company and its customers. That sense of community, REI argues, is rooted in the love of the outdoors shared by everyone involved.

REI strives to not only sell recreational equipment, but also to provide different excursion experiences, which further enforces their commitment to getting people outside rather than being a normal retail company. They care about enjoying life and want to connect people by leading outdoor adventures. This reasoning led their CEO  to close all REI outlet stores on Black Friday in favor of their #OptOutside campaign.

So what do your favorite hobbies have to do with this campaign? Well REI is hinting at something bigger than their appeal to people of similar interests. Everyone has (or should have) a hobby, or a rewarding activity that they do for themselves. These types of activities cultivate peace within one’s soul. They help you to relax. They give you something to look forward to. The greater message is to opt for inner peace.

Black Friday is the worst day of the year. It is the epitome of our anxiety-ridden, over-consumptive culture. Crowds of people are drawn to stores in order to buy copious amounts of material goods on false sale, and they feel like they have to go because they are scared of missing out. They want to buy all of these things that they couldn’t justify buying at regular price. But if you can’t justify buying something at normal price, do you really need it? Do you really need that new television that the commercial says you need? Do you really need to buy your nephew that gadget for Christmas, or can you think of something more meaningful to give him?

Walmart and Target (and various other stores) now open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. And you have to go because if you don’t you’ll miss out on the chance of a lifetime to buy fancy things that you don’t need. But take a step back for a second.

If you end up going to Target at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, aren’t you the one actually missing out? You’re missing out on time you could be spending with family. You’re missing out on moments of inner peace you could be offering yourself on a rare holiday break. Opt for inner peace, opt for doing something you enjoy. If you feel like it, #OptOutside

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Bradley Harrison is a senior at College of Charleston. After a long and painful stint as an engineering student at a university in Georgia which you probably have never heard of, he has decided to come back home to his native Charleston and study Spanish and Education. As a keen observer of pop culture, he loves art house cinema,, and the Ringer. FOH Army for life.

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