The first time I decided to opt outside on Black Friday was over a decade ago. I’d just finished Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws down in Florida (people I feel compelled to tell you that I love dearly) and was deep in the process of digesting on the couch when my sister-in-law (again, a lovely person) came over to me.
“We’re going to leave at 4,” she said.
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“For shopping,” she said. “We’re going to leave at 4. In the morning.”
“We’re going shopping?” I asked, still in a stuffing haze.
“Well, yeah,” she said. “For Black Friday. The girls are, anyway. The guys are going in the boat.”
I looked over at my husband and his brothers, then back at her. Back at them, back at her.
“I’m going with them,” I said.
So I did and we had a lovely time roaming about the mangrove islands on the coast of Florida while she and the other ladies had a lovely time wrestling deals from the area megastores.
That was the first time I fully realized two things: 1) some people really do like to shop on Black Friday and 2) I was not one of them.
This felt like a lonely stance for a few years, as stores launched bigger and better doorbuster campaigns and the news covered crazier and crazier Black Friday antics. While people who loved to shop got more and more bonded in their annual ritual, those of us who didn’t felt more and more left out. We spent our Friday eating leftovers, kicking through the November leaves and thinking: “Am I the only one who doesn’t like that?”
Until last year.
Last year, the outdoor outfitter REI did something different. They launched the Opt Outside campaign. They closed all of their stores and instead gave their employees the day off–paid!–to go do something outside. They encouraged everyone else to do the same. It’s a marketing campaign, sure, but it’s one I could get behind.
It can be hard to counter the influence marketing has on kids–heck, even I was questioning whether I should go grab some deals and I hate shopping. But here was a chance to consciously say: “it’s okay if you don’t value that. Lots of us value this instead.” Sometimes that can help turn the tide.
So last year, we opted outside. My husband took my daughter hunting for the first time while my son and I went hiking in Acadia. It was chilly, sure, but it felt great to stretch our legs and work off some pie. I’m not much of a joiner, but I admit it was kind of nice to be part of the in-crowd for once.
Why don’t you join us this year? If there are shoppers in your life, blow them a kiss at 4 a.m., help them find their helmet and knee pads, wish them luck, then go back to sleep, get up at a normal hour, have some coffee and go #optoutside. Wave if you see us.
Just don’t get too close. We don’t like crowds all that much.