Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Some day, I really do enjoy getting up at 4AM for my job. It's -10 in Athabasca, you can see all the furnace exhaust rising from all the buildings...it all has a faint orange glow because of the street lights. And the sky is so clear you can see the full moon reflected in the ice on the river.

It's all very pretty, and I had to share that with the world.

But anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that today is Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day was the pet cause of a lot of people I went to university with (especially the editors of the Dagligtale, who gave it lots and lots of coverage), and as I make the move from "young and cynical" to "old and bitter," I don't celebrate it anymore, but I take the moment to acknowledge that today's the day.

It was started by the anti-consumer watchdog Adbusters, as a way to protest our consumerist society. It's quite easy to do. Just buy nothing today. Stay at home, read a book, call a friend, whatever. Just don't buy anything.

You'll also notice that today is Black Friday...this is the day that all the American retailers start their Christmas sales and it's the busiest shopping day of the year in the USA. That's no coincidence...Buy Nothing Day was chosen specifically to fall on Black Friday as the perfect day to protest consumerism.

Of course, it's had its fair share of controversy. Most major American networks refuse to run Buy Nothing Day ads. Back in 2001, when 9/11 was still on people's minds and folks were encouraged to buy as much stuff as possible to show the terrorists that everything was fine and the American economy would not be shaken, Buy Nothing Day was deemed un-patriotic. Some even went as far to go, "Well, then, I buy even MORE stuff on Buy Nothing Day! Screw you, Buy Nothing Day!"

What I really like is how people are starting to stage demonstrations on Buy Nothing Day to spread the word. I like this one where you get around 10 of your friends, you each grab a shopping cart, and you roam the aisles of a department with empty carts, forming a shopping cart train and just going around and around and around.... back when I worked at Extra Foods, I used to come up with plans like that, just to get back at and inconvenience annoying customers.

I think my favourite one, though, has to be this. You go to a department store and buy as much stuff as possible...max out your credit card with all kinds of merchandise. You're probably thinking, "WTF? This is Buy Nothing Day! WTF?" but let me finish. Once you've made your purchase in the several thousands of dollars, you take all your packages, promptly walk over to the customer service desk, and immediatly return it all. And you spend your whole day going back and forth between the cash registers and the customer service desk...returning everything as soon as you buy it. Apparently, the customer service folks start getting really, really, really pissed off with you around the third time.

And some retailers are starting to jump on board...there's a few small, indepedent stores who've declared today to be "Sell Nothing Day," and they close up shop and give all their employees the day off. I'm always in favour of more days off.

So to all my friends who are buying nothing today, I applaud you for your social conscience. If your taking part in one of those demonstrations, I ask that you do so safely and peacefully. And if you're like me, who's not celebrating directly but will probably wind up buying nothing because you've just got no reason to head out to the store today, then I thank you for your accidental recognition.

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