Buy Nothing Day 2012 :: an opportunity for protest

“Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.” Fawzi Ibrahim

Black Friday strikes me as a singularly awful idea. Shopping can be stressful at the best of times, so add massive crowds, slow-moving lineups, and tight change rooms and I’d be a total wreck. I’ve never participated in Black Friday, aided by the fact that I no longer live in an urban area, so the nearest decent shopping mall is two hours away. Minutiae aside, I prefer to take my abhorrence of Black Friday a step further this year; I’ll be participating in Buy Nothing Day 2012.

Interestingly, I learned about Buy Nothing Day before ever hearing about Black Friday. (Maybe that has something to do with being in Canada, where it’s not nearly as ubiquitous as in the U.S.) I was in university at the time and someone invited me to join a random Facebook group called “Buy Nothing Friday.” I had no idea what it was and, not knowing about Black Friday until I read some news headlines later on, declined the invitation to join. Now, I’m all for it and intend to keep my wallet closed for all of tomorrow.


The idea behind Buy Nothing Day (BND) came from a Canadian actor/artist Ted Dave in 1992. It was picked up by Vancouver’s counter-culture magazine Adbusterswho have promoted it heavily ever since. (Adbusters is associated with the Occupy movement, as well as #OccupyXmas, a complete boycott of Christmas shopping. I’m not yet willing to do that, but certainly getting close.) BND is meant to be celebrated on an individual level and lasts a full twenty-four hours on November 23, 2012. By refusing to participate in the excesses of Black Friday, people can protest the needless consumerism that is rampant in North America and show retailers and shoppers that there’s another way.

BND also draws attention to the much bigger problem: “Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we’re not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times.”

There’s such an ingrained tendency to buy things just because they’re on sale. If there’s a good deal, it seems a shame to waste it, even though the item in question is unnecessary; or, we don’t need something until we see it and then create a need for it. I suffer from this urge, too, and it’s something I fight to suppress on a regular basis.

On their website, Adbusters suggests some funny ways of protesting Black Friday. There’s the Credit Card Cut-Up, in which you stand in a mall with a sign offering a simple service: an end to high interest rates and mounting debt with a single snip. A Zombie Walk features a stroll around the mall, gazing at the comatose, blank faces of shoppers. Funniest of all is the Whirl-Mart: “You and nine of your closest friends silently drive your shopping carts around in a long, inexplicable conga line without ever actually buying anything.” What would you think or do if you saw this actually happening in a store?!

Check out Adbusters’ infamous “North American Piggy” anti-advertisement for Buy Nothing Day. Interestingly, the video has been banned from MTV and other networks worldwide. (I wonder why…) 

I suspect this post may generate some controversy and I’d love to hear your thoughts on Black Friday vs. Buy Nothing Day, especially you American readers who are far more in the midst of it than us Canadians. What are your plans for tomorrow? What does Black Friday look like in your area?

an alternative use for your credit card

12 thoughts on “Buy Nothing Day 2012 :: an opportunity for protest

  1. This American agrees wholeheartedly! I don’t shopping as a rule, but I would rather go to the dentist than venture out on Black Friday. The rampant consumerism and desire for constant economic growth in our culture will be our doom unless we get it under control. We all need to go on a consumer diet! We’ve gotten way too heavy with “things” we don’t need.

  2. I agree with the idea and love your enthusiasm but I am soooo weak! Clearance sales are irresistable to me. Even if I don’t buy I am compelled to look. I know I need to seek help.

    1. Oh, please don’t think I’m immune to the allure of clearance sales! Far from it. I also like to look and I’m all about buying on sale whenever possible.

  3. I don’t recall buying anything in the last few years in the black friday/cyber monday sales. However I do take a look at the sales to see if an item that I’ve been researching for a while is on for a good price, I’m not much of an impulse buyer.
    I don’t see myself ever getting in the big lines/crowds though, just online browsing for me.

    1. Fortunately we don’t have to worry about those crowds and lineups here. I’m sure online is much smoother and quicker, though I’m not much of an online shopper myself because I like to try stuff on. You sound like J! He researches a product for weeks, learning everything there is to know about it before making the purchase. I’ve learned how valuable that is since meeting him.

  4. This American is usually a full-hearted supporter of BND but I did get a laugh out of a trip to the store yesterday for a box of paperclips desperately needed for an activity at Son’s birthday party tomorrow. I put my $2.88 down and the clerk just smiled and said “big day of shopping?” I guess I had a buy nothing of consequence day. Living in the city, we are fortunate enough to have great access to local shops that we can walk to. That’s the only way I like to shop. It is more charming than stressful and seems to force a pace (and capacity for carrying purchases) that keeps our holiday giving in check.

  5. We have never gone to the shops on Black Friday… think it is a hideous commentary on America that it’s citizens have allowed corporate greed to turn them into mockeries of human behaviour! And this year we have gone even further. We are boycotting any of the stores who opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day. We will be boycotting these stores at least through the holidays. Thanksgiving Day is supposed to be a day of thanks, a time to spend with family and friends! And not shopping!

    Black Friday makes me ashamed to be American!

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