As a born and bred Brit, I’ve noticed something unusual happening on my little island over the past few years. Every time November rolls around, more signs for Black Friday pop up. We don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving, and yet we've decided to participate in the overwhelming discounts, deals, and decadence.
Our holiday shopping was going just fine before Black Friday came along, so why do so many people seem suddenly keen to get caught up in the consumer craziness? Of course saving money has something to do with it, but I have a theory that there's more to it. As I've become more and more interested in the question of why we shop, I've come across articles from nearly 30 years ago—pre-internet shopping, pre-smartphones, pre-Amazon Prime memberships—that wouldn’t seem out of place if they were published today. Consider this quote from a 1991 New York Times piece: "The trip to the store has become a ritual assurance of love and self-worth, offering an escape from loneliness, despair and anxiety."
It turns out the urge to shop—and the potentially negative environmental and financial consequences that come with it—is not new at all.