REI Inspires Change and Balance this Holiday Season

On Wednesday October 28th, national outdoor and sporting goods store, REI, announced that they would go against the grain this upcoming Black Friday by closing its stores across the country. Instead of opening early with major door busting sales like most retail stores do on Black Friday these days, they are encouraging Americans to #OptOutside on this day which normally marks the beginning of the crazed-holiday-shopping season. They are promoting friends and family to stay out of the stores and instead be outdoors; or at least spending more time with family and friends instead of mowing strangers down with shopping carts for the chance to save $20 on low-quality clothing and toys that have been imported from China for our consumerist enjoyment.

When I heard this news, I literally exclaimed aloud in triumph. A move like this from a major and well respected company is long overdue. In this past decade, I have been consistently saddened by the greedy fiasco that Black Friday has become in this country. First of all, the concept of Black Friday is twisted and morphed to begin with: immediately after we express our gratitude for the blessings in our lives on Thanksgiving, we rush out to the stores to buy and consume more and more goods, most of it that we don’t need, and are willing to be rude and even violent to others in order to do it? I mean, really people? There have been “Black Friday Deaths” where shoppers have been trampled by other shoppers in their rush to find their savings; there was even a shooting at a TOYS R’ US one year when two shoppers were fighting over the last toy that was apparently a hot commodity that year. Are you kidding me? This is the country and culture we’ve become?

Beyond the abhorrent behavior of the masses on this Friday every year, is the corrupt direction that retail companies take with it. Over the past five to ten years, companies have been mandating that their stores open earlier and earlier on Black Friday in order to be able to sell more goods to more people. It reached a point where about three years ago, many stores started opening their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving. Last year, some stores even opened at 5:00PM on Thanksgiving – and people actually skipped out on Thanksgiving dinner to be able to shop at that time. This all means that the employees of these stores were forced to forfeit Thanksgiving with their loved ones because they had to work so that the big guys up top could make more money from hordes of crazed shoppers. This sickens me above all. Thanksgiving is our most important national holiday along with the 4th of July; and it is meant to be spent sitting down with family, indulging in a home cooked feast, and taking joy in the simple blessings in each of our lives; and yet now, good Americans are being deprived of that special time to work for a company who only sees opportunities for $$$. It’s shameful that one of our nation’s most important days has come to this! Yes, I am talking to you Macy’s, Best Buy, Walmart, and more who choose to force your workers away from their Thanksgiving meals to open your stores’ doors and serve the all consuming public while the CEO’s sit at home with their feet up.

Alas, there are good companies out there that are resisting this terrible retail trend we have been seeing. Last year, and all the years before that actually, Costco Wholesale remained closed on Thanksgiving and did not open early on Black Friday either. Paul Latham, VP-Membership, Marketing, Services for Costco spoke these immortal words when questioned on the decision, “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families.” AMEN I SAY TO THEE! In a sea of inconsiderate corporations, Costco trail blazed the way with a different stance on the subject of being open for such an important holiday.

This quote makes me so happy.

This quote makes me so happy.

Now, REI has taken an even bigger step forward in this fight against the Black Friday phenomenon by remaining closed for Thanksgiving AND Black Friday and they hope for us to not fall into the trap of going retail-crazy. Furthermore, they are paying their employees for a vacation day! Already, this stunt has by wildly well received with the campaign’s hashtag #OptOutside and the accompanying video and graphics going viral around social media. I personally hope that this starts a new trend in the United States; that this inspires companies to respect their employees enough to allow them to spend Thanksgiving with loved ones as it should be, and that this makes other companies realize that they can’t keep going on as they are when it comes to Black Friday. Most importantly, I hope this inspires the people of America to stop putting so much emphasis and energy into finding deals and consuming more and more; I hope that they find the gift of time with their friends and family and maybe even time outside with this beautiful country to be enough, more than enough.

I think Lana Del Rey said it best in her music video for her song Ride, “I believe in the country America used to be.” We used to value the simple and the good. We used to cherish our time spent with our friends and family at the Thanksgiving table. What happened? Why did we become so obsessed with chasing those deals on such small and insignificant items that we have become willing to eat a turkey sandwich for our Thanksgiving dinner while standing in line to get into Best Buy or Walmart?

Let’s change how it’s been in recent years, let’s get back to how it used to be! I am with REI this year. I understand stores will always open on Black Friday, and that’s fine;  just open late enough so that your employees can enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday. So, I am boycotting any business that opens on Thanksgiving for the sake of Black Friday sales. Will you join me? Will you #OptOutside this year?

#OptOutside with me!

#OptOutside with me!

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