In the years since I began selling leather goods I've participated in Black Friday sales probably half a dozen times. Each time I do, I work myself to death, make a great deal of money, and then feel pretty awful about contributing to something that I believe is unhealthy for our culture.
I've rationalized my participation in a number of ways, and complained a good deal along the way. It's tempting to believe that if enough small brands get it in on it, we can change the nature of Black Friday. Handmade and craft goods are a favorable alternative to slave labor and mass-production, but I don't believe that consumer culture can ever be taken down from the inside in this way. Corporate interests created this consumer frenzy; it's their horse, and we're trying to throw a saddle on it.
Black Friday also contributes to a culture of self-abuse among makers and artists. Many of my friends run small brands or market their creative skills directly, and the pressure to overwork (year round) is tremendous. Furthermore, being seen as overworked is often regarded as a thing to be proud of. This feels unhealthy, but many people don't have the option to do things differently, it's a matter of survival. Compromising your morals and well-being in order to survive is one of the inherent pitfalls of capitalism, even for folks who work for themselves doing something they love.
Black Friday is a calamity of such magnitude that it can make or break a small company. The name Black Friday derives from the notion that this is the day that businesses are finally profitable or "in the black". Having a Black Friday sale can be the keystone factor in keeping an artist or craftsperson well fed, mentally healthy, and free from traditional employment. Just a few years ago, skipping Black Friday would have been unthinkable for me, and Hollows Leather may not have survived without it. I have respect for those who are finding ways to break free from the rat race, even if this sale holiday is one of those ways. It is my view that we should always remain critical of these systems and their effects. Beyond matters of survival, I'm also uncomfortable with the idea that shopping has become a means of celebration and catharsis. I don't mean to say that I'm immune to these effects, but it is a disturbing reality, and one that I'm not willing to resign myself to.
Over the years, Hollows Leather has become stable and healthy, and I feel compelled to continually reexamine my bizarre and uneasy relationship with capitalism so that I can keep myself healthy as well as the business. After all, it can't exist without me. Now that Black Friday isn't a matter of survival for me anymore, I look forward to finding better ways to say thank you to my supporters.