I took a stroll through Laguna this past Saturday, merely for the sake of enjoying the balmy day, and the pleasure of watching families together doing the same. A stroll is by definition without purpose and I had no mission, only window shopping, which is always fun in town.
I’ve never done the black Friday thing; never comfortable in the middle of a frenzied crowd. I understand the evolution of this shopping madness, however I wonder if you feel as I do that it has gone too far. Opening on Thanksgiving Night? Urging people to leave the communion of family and friends, make others leave the nest to work, all in the name of discounts and an early shopping rush?
I am old enough to remember when retailers were closed on Sundays. That was meant to be family day. I remember walking down the commercial street on Sunday afternoons, just a half a block from my apartment building in the Bronx, on the way to visit a family member or perhaps to the subway to go to a museum in Manhattan. In contrast to the normally bustling week day, Sundays were as quiet as the first blanket of snow. People greeted each other warmly. Without a sense of purpose beyond the pleasure of the day, postures were more relaxed and smiles brighter. The lack of intent is nearly meditative and should be so on Thanksgiving, when even the fervor of football is largely collegial.
Black Friday, which has extended itself into a Black Weekend, begat Small Store Saturday and Cyber-Monday. I’m pleased for the economy that the populace spent $59 billion on Friday, but I’m fairly certain they would have spent that over time anyway, and retailers might report better profits if the season were more sane, and profits turn into jobs.
Saturday in Laguna, shoppers perused the merchandise, and I hope they made just enough purchases to make them happy and keep our local retailers in the black. Laguna Beach Books was busy when I stopped by and that is especially important to me, as the fate of independent booksellers is in our hands. In fact, the fate of all retailers, and our own sanity as consumers, may rest in carefully considering where we shop, and when, so that we not only protect our pocketbooks, but our community and our culture as well.
Is this what we have become – a nation of shoppers? Well, Saturday at least, in Laguna Beach, we were a nation of strollers. Something our friends in Europe do often, but that’s a touchy subject. After all, their finances are in the red.
On Hospitality Night, take a stroll and shop local. Good for body and soul, and the community pocketbook.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered City Hall for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com.