Early on this season’s Black Friday morning, The Boston Globe reported that Amazon warehouse workers were protesting the company. These objections were over poor working conditions and unrealistically high physical expectations of the workers, such as the ability to work their shifts for hours on end without taking bathroom breaks, for fear of being labeled as ‘idling.’ According to the Seattle Times, workers have even gone so far as to urinate in bottles to avoid leaving their station. Understanding the conditions that pushed these workers to the point of protest only begins to paint the picture of what issues lie beneath these monstrously profitable corporations.
Black Friday in America alone, amasses almost $8 billion in revenue and is the biggest shopping day of the year. Combined with the recent surge of patrons engaging in Cyber Monday, the weekend after Thanksgiving is the time where most Americans attempt to get the bulk of their Christmas shopping done.
The new generation of shoppers seems to be less interested in the big sale days such as Black Friday, and have, in fact, imposed a 4 percent decrease in shopping on this weekend according to The Balance. This, however, raises a bigger question. Is this distaste toward consumer-driven holidays because of an overall attitude change in millennial and Generation Z consumers or is it rather due to the debt that these generations seem to have amassed? Perhaps a combination of both, as morale is often low for Black Friday among younger generations, due to the fact that they usually are the employees working these shifts and have to deal with the masses and deal-crazed shoppers, or they feel a sense of sympathy toward these employees who are giving up their family time, or the small amount of time off they may have off from another job.
This decrease may be attributed to the accessibility of Cyber Monday which allows shoppers to make purchases from the ease of their couch. It’s easy to assume that since you are purchasing through an electronic device, shopping Black Friday deals can be more ethical. There are no cashiers waking up at 3 a.m. for an eight-hour shift and no temporary hires who will inevitably be fired and left jobless after the rush of holiday customers.
With the favorability of online shopping comes the problem with overlooking employees in warehouses and factories, like Amazon, who are often facing much harsher conditions.. American consumerism isn’t going anywhere but Americans could convert the industry to support sustainable shopping and fair trade companies. We must put more thought into the people who make our products, the conditions that they work under and how the preparation and consumption of these products affect the environment we live in. We must do this in order to retain the people, places, and things that we are so thankful for.