Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday — there are so many different ways to think about spending your money in the days following Thanksgiving that we can scarcely be expected to keep sane about it. But the Friday following the annual demolition of the turkey is also called Buy Nothing Day as a way to protest mass consumerism in the United States and elsewhere.
But, alas, buying is something of a national sport and has created vast wealth, none more notably than that of the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the $200 billion man said to be the second richest person in the world. It is no secret that the rich are getting richer, and according to Forbes, the world’s wealthiest people collectively commanded $5 trillion more in March than they did a year earlier. Stock values have risen relentlessly in 2021, to the point that Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, could by the time this newspaper is in your hands be worth $300 billion.
Amazon provides an easy way to buy, soup to nuts, having become almost synonymous with retail in the United States. Tesla makes terrific cars and has marketing muscle to match (duping credulous local officials into exclusive deals for its charging stations on public property). But we think that consumers should think twice before making these companies and their majority stockholders even richer. Bloomberg reported recently that the top 1 percent of U.S. earners hold more wealth than the entire middle class and that the disparity continues to grow. This has fueled generally misguided populist anger on the right and is also behind President Biden’s spending plans for infrastructure, economic stimulus, education, health care, and families. Shopping locally instead of online can help reset the balance a little, too.
Trouble this year within the web of suppliers that bring goods from manufacturers to retailers has made holiday buying fraught. That one-click-away item might not come in time the way it would have last year. There has been a surprising boon for smaller businesses that make products consumers want; one South Fork retailer said that he had added as many as 15 new vendors as regular sources of inventory dried up this year. This is good news for shoppers, who may find an enticing variety in brick-and-mortar stores — and enjoy peace of mind that the items they select will actually be in their hands in time for the giving.