I first saw REI's #OptOutside campaign via a banner ad. "We're closing on Black Friday," said the ad copy. "Holy shit," I said. "Finally, someone gets it."
I hate Black Friday. I hate it. It's bad enough that it's consumerism run amok. But there's also the narrative that surrounds it, or that it surrounds itself in--at this point, I guess you'd say it's both. You see stories about Black Friday all over the news, giving the hype--GIANT SALES! GIANT DISCOUNTS!--a deeper imprimatur. Every year, we hear of the steady race-to-the-bottom of retail's earlier and earlier opening times. Every year, we see more videos of people stampeding over each other to get into stores. This is how important it is to buy things, these stories and videos imply. Because keep in mind: where are you seeing these stories but via ad-supported media? The whole idea of advertising is to create demand where it wasn't already, to create need. Which is to say that the media itself is--indeed, has to be--complicit in this madness. To do otherwise, to either cast genuine opprobrium on what they force us to witness or else to opt out entirely, would be to cast their whole existence into doubt.
Thus every year, the intensity of hype feeds back on itself and gets worse.
So when I saw a major U.S. retailer responding to the perversity of Black Friday by just opting out--closing their doors, giving their employees two days off, and thereby doing a little to fight against the deeper dissolution of the sanctity of what really should be a pretty internally-focused holiday--I was like, YES.
Look, I have no illusions: #OptOutside is a marketing campaign. I learned about it via an ad, and yes I recognize the irony. I get that REI is using disaffection with consumerism to, to some degree, drive consumption.
But nothing about that changes the fact that they aren't going to be part of the sickness that day. As marketing campaigns go, REI can count me in. Indeed, #OptOutside seems like such a positive development that I am literally going to buy in. Speaking my mind, as I am doing here, is lovely and all, but I want to reward REI for their stance, and beyond my public declaration of support, I'm going to support them with my money as well: I'm going to do my Christmas shopping at REI.
Yes, that means that I'll be battling out-of-control consumerism with consumption. But not on Black Friday. And that matters.
Maybe, just maybe, other businesses will take note, and we can begin to move away from the depths of our craziness.
Oh, and one more thing: Yes, I'll be opting outside.