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Holiday Online Shopping: The Better Way

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You can divide the world into two categories: those who live for shopping, and those who have an aversion to it.

When the holiday shopping season kicks into full gear around Thanksgiving, it seems to push the dichotomy between shoppers and non-shoppers into even more extreme poles.
What’s wrong with holiday shopping? Nothing, if you can stomach it. It’s a war out there, made painfully evident when Black Friday rolls around.

Big retail chains have been creeping more and more into Thanksgiving Day by promoting a manufactured shopping event with “door busters” that often aren’t even the best of the season. Deal-seekers rush upon the stores as an animalistic frenzied mass with little regard for fellow shoppers. Every year Black Friday brings reports of injury and death.

There has been a growing consumer backlash against Black Friday in recent years. Sales on Black Friday were down 10% last year. Increasingly, stores are backing away from the trend of opening earlier.

Outdoor gear retailer REI, decided to close its 143 stores on Black Friday, taking the backlash against the day of deep discounts to another level. Chains, like GameStop Corp. and Staples Inc., will open later on Friday but plan to remain closed on Thanksgiving.

As much as some Americans love the opportunity to hit Black Friday sales early, others are opposed to Thanksgiving Day consumerism. A late October study by retail personalization engine RichRelevance shows 36% of Americans “hate” the practice of shopping on the holiday while another 26% “dislike” it. A mere 12% “like or love” the trend of stores opening on this special day.

Most Black Friday deals are available online, before Thanksgiving. Twenty retailers are offering the exact deals as last year, according to a new NerdWallet analysis of 21 Black Friday advertisements, while others are using tricks to make discounts seem bigger. In three instances, this year’s Black Friday sale prices are higher than the 2014 Black Friday prices, NerdWallet found.

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The smart thing to do is stay home on Black Friday and enjoy time off with family and friends. Or go to a movie or go bowling. That’s what we do traditionally on Black Friday, as long the cinema and bowling alleys are far away from shopping centers.

Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, is a noble effort to promote independent businesses. But this is an event drummed up by American Express and propped up by media outlets like the Today Show and their #shopsmall campaign.

Cyber Monday is another manufactured event designed by online retailers and media companies to get consumers to ride the wave of post-Thanksgiving shopping. Having worked in online media in New York, I was engaged in marketing tactic the get consumers to get on board with Cyber Monday’s artificial event. Cyber Monday deals are starting now on Sunday and extend throughout the following week, effectively turning it into a “Cyber Week”.
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Shopping begins for me on Leave Me to My Own Holiday Spending Devices Tuesday. Here’s how I recommend tackling your online holiday shopping this year.

SHOP: INDEPENDENT RETAILERS

Move beyond the big retail behemoths and seek out smaller companies. Support the economy without playing into the manipulating hands of big business. You might be able to shave off a few dollars if you buy from Amazon and Walmart, but a more conscientious choice is to consider the smaller guys who are eaten up by the brutal beasts of unfettered capitalism.

SHOP: LOCAL

Do a little more legwork and shop at your locally-owned and operated businesses online.

When searching for something on Google, narrow your search to specific locale by selecting it in the search tools box immediately below the search query.

Check out local retail aggregators.

SHOP: WITH A CAUSE IN MIND

Look into small businesses that give a portion of their profits to worthy causes.

I happened upon a cool San Francisco company offering perfect gourmet gift ideas for my parents. They curate boxes packed with handcrafted food from the Bay Area’s most distinctive food artisans. They offer products like gluten-free Roasted Tomato Salsa from the popular (and Bobby Flay endorsed) Papalote Mexican Grill, blood orange marmalade, Snyder’s sage honey, violet mustard, and varieties of locally-produced organic extra virgin olive oil.

With each purchase they also send on your behalf a $5 donation to Heifer International, a group working to end world hunger and poverty. My parents spend a lot of their spare time ministering to the needy and less fortunate, so this adds a nice humanitarian touch to the gift.

There are a lot of independent online retailers offering products with a purpose. Balls of Steel: Whiskey & Wine Chillers With a Cause is one of my favorite products I’ve seen this season.

These stainless steel balls have a specially designed core that is guaranteed to keep whiskey and other beverages cold, and they donate a portion of proceeds to fight testicular cancer.

Black Friday? Don’t do it! Cyber Monday? Stay away. And make every day a small business day!

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Clinton Wilson

Clinton Wilson is an inveterate traveler, enthusiast of anything related to technology, music, and cinema and has written for Just Out
Newsmagazine and Black Lamb in Portland, Oregon; PragueOne in the
The Czech Republic; and for Penguin Group in New York City. He recently relocated to Boise, Idaho from New York and lives with his wife and three kids.
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