Over the last few months, an old friend and I have established a very pleasant routine. We meet at 10.30 am on the last Friday of the month for coffee and cake in town, and spend an enjoyable couple of hours exchanging news about our lives - the books we've read, how our respective jobs are going, and how our husbands and children-no-longer-children are doing. It is a very civilised custom.
So this Friday just gone (28th), I innocently drove into town, and was surprised to have to go all the way up to Level 4 of my normal car park, instead of finding a space further down. But I put it down to the imminence of Christmas - maybe people were trying to get their present shopping done before the rush.
I had read about Black Friday on Facebook, but had genuinely not appreciated the fact that the British retail industry and the media between them had persuaded the gullible British public to buy into this quintessentially American Day (we do not, after all, celebrate Thanksgiving).
So my friend and I enjoyed our usual coffee and chat, after which I wandered into M&S to spend a voucher I had recently been given by generous friends.
Which was when the penny finally dropped, and I realised that Black Friday had come to the UK. There was a very good sale in the Per Una section of M&S, and I picked up three items of clothing for the usual price of one, which was very satisfactory. And although it was quite busy, it was not manic.
It was not until I got home and logged onto Facebook that I realised what kind of collective insanity had apparently taken hold of a large section of the British population. Shocking scenes of people fighting over (and *with*) 42" TVs were being reported. It was like the Boxing Day sales had come early and madly.
You may think it hypocritical of me to comment, as I benefited from Black Friday myself. My defence is that it was purely accidental, and that I only spent the voucher I had been given, which I would have spent that day anyway.
The question I am left with is why?
Why have British retailers decided to import this American custom, at a time of year when a lot of people are buying stuff for Christmas anyway, at full price?
Why are British people so willing to be influenced by the media? Yes, I get that there were some very good bargains to be had, but fighting in the aisles? Over consumer goods?
It makes me sad that, as somebody remarked on Facebook, if you camp out for a social justice issue (remember Occupy a few years ago?) you are seen as a leftie drop-out, but if you buy into a media-induced retail frenzy, losing your veneer of civilisation along the way, that is perfectly acceptable.