The Black Friday shopping ritual has always been ridiculous. People standing in the cold for hours. Fights over limited stock. People being trampled. It’s not a recipe for bringing out the best in humanity.
This year, it’s worse.
With a stagnating economy, stores started running Christmas ads before Thanksgiving, and are even pulling Black Friday openings earlier and earlier – into Thanksgiving itself – hoping to whip consumers into a spending frenzy. The LA Times reports stores like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Kmart will open at 10 p.m. this Thursday, while Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Kohl’s are opening at midnight on Friday.
The problem is, as stores push doors open, employees are pushing back. While some shoppers are excited to line up on Thanksgiving to snag deals, those having to work resent missing out on the holiday. At change.org, a petition protesting Target in particular has already gathered 198,246 out of 200,000 votes needed. Created by Target employee Anthony Hardwick, it calls out Target President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel with these words:
“A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day. By opening the doors at midnight, Target is requiring team members to be in the store by 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation – all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!”
You don’t have to contribute to this disaster, and you don’t have to choose between that and contributing to the economy. If our recent crash course in practical economics has taught us anything, it should be that money that goes to big corporations doesn’t act the same way the same money would if pushed to individuals. So this year, why not do some or all of your Christmas shopping from individual artists and small family companies.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Legend has it that once, long, long, ago, the pigs ran free in great, happy herds, roaming the wide open spaces of the lone prairie, much like the buffalo, only shorter. And pinker.
Made by John McKay‘s “clever wife,” these soaps, lotions, and massage oils are made with a minimum of ingredients. They are a favorite at their local farmers’ markets, but you can get them yourselves. Or, if you’re not sure what scent to share with the people in your life, you can get a gift certificate and let your loved ones choose for themselves.
Epic soap for the net.
If smelly soap doesn’t do it for you, how about geeky soap? Whether they want to admit it or not, you probably know someone who would be completely tickled by a 20-sided die on a rope. Or the Donkey Kong barrels. Or the Cthulhu crocheted bath mitt. This is the kind of place you go when nowhere else will sell you something to suit the geeky person in your life.
Inspired by science and nature.
Surly Amy, artist and Skepchick, makes jewelry with a message, jewelry that will display your tribal affiliations, and jewelry that simply looks pretty. Unless someone wants to tell the world that they hate jewelry, you’ll have a hard time shopping her store and coming away empty-handed. Particularly for atheists, this is a place with a large selection of iconic jewelry–from the Out Campaign A or the ATHEIST acronym pendant to the more subtle Russell’s teapot or Occam’s razor, you can tell the world just who you are. These are always good for starting conversations. And through Cyber Monday, Amy is offering a 10% discount code.
Cuttlefish creations and octopus oddities.
Sheryl Westleigh also works in clay, but hers is a bit more fantastically shaped. Tentacles abound, on their own or attached to their owners. Sometimes even in sample jars. You’ve always wanted a steampunk trilobite, right? Maybe your own little mollusc nestled in the hollow of your throat? All right, this isn’t for everyone, but those who like this sort of thing will be very happy with a gift from Noadi. Noadi is offering free U.S. shipping through Cyber Monday.
Art in awe of science.
If you hang out anywhere in the science blogosphere, you probably already know about Glendon Mellow. Trilobite Boy, a comic in progress, is my current favorite, but he’s also created iconic images surrounding the clash between religion and science and the furor over evolution in particular. From Christmas-colored trilobites (available as cards) to a tongue-in-cheek re-imagining of the zodiac as trilobites–plus a number of non-trilobite-related images–Glendon offers high-quality prints of a number of his paintings. I personally own the one on the right.
The art of the scientific process.
Michele Banks creates art that depicts, on a large scale, things we’d often prefer stay small enough we can’t see them. Paintings of slime molds like the one at left, detailed watercolors of parasites, Petri dish Christmas ornaments showing cultures of who know’s what. Actually, Michele knows what, and she’ll tell you, because knowing what lives at that level is a great deal of the fun.
Those are just a few people around the web doing cool things that won’t look like boxed products out of the box stores. Where else should people be looking for these unique gifts and small businesses?