Boycott or Buycott? | Let’s debate as we try to survive Black Friday

Boycott or Buycott? | Let’s debate as we try to survive Black Friday

Yes, that time of the year it’s upon us. And lo and behold, it’s turning from one day into a whole season of discount and general unbridled deal-ramming down our throats. Yes, that includes the sewing community, I have already seen discount codes popping in my Instagram feeds or in my inbox.

So, as a minimalist and a sustainability-minded person, this is probably the time of the year where I get riled up and I just can’t keep it all in either. And it’s now making its way on my blog as well.

Plus, today I read a fantastic blog post by the godfather of environmentalism in the UK, the legend that is Jonathon Porritt about the campaign that has been making the rounds of the petition sites aiming to boycott palm oil.

And the combination of these things got me thinking about what is a sustainable sewing person meant to be doing about Black Friday and other major sales events. Shall they burn their bras on the altar of anti-consumerism and give the finger to the retail demon (even it’s just about a few metres of fabric)? Or shall they vote with their money and support the good people out there (and bag a bargain in the process)?

Let’s debate! Here is my two pennies’ worth…

Shall we Boycott?

Good ol’ Wikipedia tells us that a “boycott is an act of voluntary and intentional abstention from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for moral, socialpolitical, or environmental reasons”. As an aside, check out the origin of the term, very interesting.

As Black Friday/Cyber Monday grows and grows around the world, and not least in the UK, there have been calls from all layers of society and economy to boycott this ‘Americanisation’ of the UK retail and well, save our spending for the other traditional mindless consumerism period of Christmas, as we used to.  Still, we’re talking estimates of billions generated in sales over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And that’s in the US alone.

Credit: Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

So, in a nutshell, in the context of consumerism, boycotting means punishing business, or even the entire retail sector, by not taking part in Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Just say no to spending money.

As a sustainability practitioner and minimalist, I can totally buy (oh, the irony!) into this approach. I stopped buying clothes from certain brands after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 and then in 2015, I went on a total clothes-buying ban. But this is a very personal choice and I had a very high baseline to begin with.

But let’s look into what’s wrong with the concept of Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Well, firstly, if you live anywhere else than that US, it makes no sense at all. It’s linked to a holiday that is only celebrated by Americans, because of clearly documented historical reasons. It’s like we had a big sale event linked to Bonfire Night (it’s a British celebration linked to the Gun Powder plot to blow up the British Parliament in the XVIIth century) that just got exported across the world.

Secondly, are those deals that get touted and floated in front of us even that good? Are they worth climbing over people and perhaps getting hurt in the process? I was just reading that people even get killed over the sales stampede. Many retailers now offer discounts in the build-up to Black Friday and November is becoming one of the biggest spending months of the year.

Thirdly, do you need all the things you end up buying over Black Friday? I was reading about the psychological forces at play during these kinds of events, with slogans like ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’ and the anticipation of getting a good, or better deal, pushing our brains to react to the fear of missing out. Speaking of FOMO, I recommend a really great blog post about the Fear of Missing Out and how it plays up in the sewing community. So basically, we are being manipulated into wanting things without weighing up the options.

From an environmental perspective, Black Friday/Cyber Mondays are extremely wasteful. People end up throwing items that perhaps still have a lot of life left in them just because they want a shiny new thing. Conversely, many products purchased never get used and end up in the bin eventually.

Or Should we Buycott instead?

A boycott is an opposite behaviour, where consumers reward good behaviour by voting with their money and rewarding companies by spending money with them.

In relation to Black Friday, this can apply to spending money with those brands that speak to you and that you want to support and invest in, that you were already planning on purchasing or that you were considering but maybe could not afford.

Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that your pounds or dollars have power and it’s up to you where you spend them and whom do you support or deny does matter. I know it’s so much harder to investigate and do research into brands and who they stand for, or who do they ultimately belong to. That’s why we can sometimes resort to shortcuts, like small and local is good, big multinationals are bad. But the truth is most of the time in the grey area.

While researching for this post I came across an app called Buycott that helps consumers identify the brands that contravene to their ethical and moral principles. You have to select the causes that you care about or your red lines and then just scan the barcode of a product. The app will let you know which one of your principle the particular product goes against, if any, and then you can decide if you still want to buy it. I found it really easy to use, but it feels very US focused, both in causes and products they cover. Having said that, I scanned the barcode of a random box of Swiss chocolate I had on my desk at work and they identified the company in their database. Worth having a look.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Sewing

Well, that’s all very interesting, Alex, but what does it have to do with sewing? I hear you ask.

As I was saying, my inbox is full of emails from sewing companies, as well as pattern and fabrics shops, sewing machines, you name it. So, in our sewing lives as well as our regular consumer lives, we are being called upon to spend this Black Friday/Cyber Monday (and hold on to your wallets, Christmas is just around the corner, as are Boxing Day sales).

So how do we manage this? Should be completely ignore them and look the other way? Or should we take advantage of the opportunity and grab a bargain? A third alternative could also be the buycott, looking to support companies that we like, but maybe could not afford before.

As a minimalist, my first instinct would be to just say no to spending more money on things just because they are on sale, but again, it’s not a black and white world.

Here are some thoughts for those embracing the grey lines.

  •  Support companies that give back

Friday Pattern Company donates 5% of all proceeds to a rotating collection of the top-ranked charities in the world. Each pattern benefits a different charity. For more info on where they are donating for each pattern, click here.

Freesewing.org – This is a site with free customised patterns ran by the wonderful Joost, who also donates to Medecins Sans Frontieres every year any donations that the patrons make.

Please share if you know of any other sewing related business that donates to charity, I would love to list them here.

  • Instead of spending time browsing, use your stash and sew for charity (ok, you can even buy a few metres if you must)

Here are a few links to organisations that need people to get involved and sew for charity.

https://www.electric-needle.com/sew-for-a-cause.htm

http://www.sewnews.com/blogs/sewing/2017/03/30/sewing-for-good-9-sewing-charities-that-need-your-help/

https://www.thesewingdirectory.co.uk/sewing-for-charity/

https://www.craftsy.com/sewing/article/charity-sewing/

https://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/home-garden/craft-hobbies/crafting/sewing-and-knitting-for-charity 

http://cyberseams.com/article/105724/tips/sewing_charity_list.html

  • If you are buying Christmas presents early, buy handmade

Grace from Beyond Measure, has some lovely sewing tools that have got the sewing community swooning already.

You can also try the lovely Maker/Sewer necklaces from Closet Case, I am really drooling for one.

Again, please recommend other sewing related hand-made business to list them here.

  • Buy things you already have on your wish list, if you find them on sale

I must confess, I did buy a new (to me) camera lens for which I have been saving for ages in the Black Friday sale. I would have had to save for another 6 months or so, but the sale (and buying a used one), allowed me to get it a bit earlier.

PIN FOR LATER

Surviving through Black Friday as a sewer - to buycott or to boycott

 


 

So here were are, the Sunday after Black Friday (and before Cyber Monday), hopefully with the pockets not too empty and still feeling happy for not having indulged or having grabbed a bargain that made us very happy.

I WOULD LOVE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BOYCOTTS VS BUYCOTTS AND OTHER IDEAS ON SURVIVING BLACK FRIDAYS, BOXING DAY SALES AND OTHER TEMPTATIONS OF OVERCONSUMPTION.

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17 Comments

  1. 26 November 2018 / 1:24 AM

    Hi Alex,
    Great thought provoking article. I wondered if you could add https://www.makingforcharity.co.uk to your charity list as we are always looking for sewers across the country to make and donate the syringe driver bags in particular.
    Thanks
    Julie

  2. Maimu
    26 November 2018 / 3:51 AM

    This was probably the first year, where Black Friday was HUGE here. And no one got why I wasn’t at all interested in any of it. We are Baltic people, so far away, and honestly we don’t need another piece of Americanism added to our culture.
    Halloween already gets more attention than our traditional Mardipäev ja Kadripäev (both in November, you get to wear a costume and all!) shall we soon have Thanksgiving as well? Plus thanks the the American Thanksgiving, Christmas period starts earlier each year… NO!
    Maybe I am too ‘old-school’ but I love every single odd thing about our culture and traditions.
    I didn’t buy anything even tho many fabric stores had a 20% off of everything sale. Neither did I buy anything online, even from companies I like.
    Now after Christmas sales are a totally different thing for me. That’s when I buy new winter stuff (boots, thermal layers, etc) because thanks to global warming, winter comes later, and fuck yeah I’d like to get 50-80% sale on things I need to survive when the snow hits! I try to keep my shopping to minimum, whenever, just because I don’t belive in ‘at the end wins the one with more stuff’

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 9:54 PM

      Oh Maimu, I am so with you! I am going mad over Christmas starting in November now, by the time we actually get to 25th Dec, I’m over it! When I was back home, we had loads of traditions that got overlooked because of American imports, so I know exactly what you mean.

  3. 26 November 2018 / 8:55 AM

    Great post Alex! I completely agree with you! Like you said the Black Friday sales aren’t related to anything outside America and it’s just become so crazy, so out of control, it really embodies all that is wrong with our consumer society. I personally chose not to have my patterns on sale during that period because I felt that by participating, I was going against all the reasons that made me want to create and sell sewing patterns in the first place. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling that! 🙂

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 9:56 PM

      I am so glad that small businesses are not taking part. It’s pretty hard to make it work as it is without giving away the small margins. If people want to buy your patterns, they will do so because they appreciate them, not because they are on sale.

  4. 26 November 2018 / 9:00 AM

    I am always surprised how Black Friday took off here (Ireland) as the tradition is also connected to Thanksgiving which we don’t celebrate. It also reminds me how retail created the event and the tradition is only so the store could get the ledgers ‘back into black’. I have worked in retail and retail itself is just a business but the drivers of it make me cynical and peoples shopping habits are so dumbed down (rarely will any customer ask about quality of materials or providence) and so passive (they will buy anything), its scary to watch. I dont work in stores anymore…..I think smiling politely when someone would say ‘Sure I couldnt leave it behind, it is so cheap’ got to me in the end.

    As regards boycott – I think if people shopped in a genuine informed need (who needs a polluting coffee machine when a stove top is equally as good) and gift giving is not ‘mandatory’….

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 9:59 PM

      I work in Retail as well (not in stores, but HO) and I know exactly what you mean. I am trying to convince my family not to get me any ‘stuff’ for Christmas, just experiences or vouchers for courses. But it’s really hard for people to stop equating care and love with material things.

  5. Elaine Marsh
    26 November 2018 / 9:51 AM

    Great topic Alex, something quite dear to my heart, especially the list of places that you can use your sewing skills to help charity sites. I certainly will get in touch with some of them. I’ve been trying to do this as I have leftover scraps that can turn into Cinderella items for someone else and stored unused duvets too that will help do something, even if I take them apart for filling something.
    On the subject of Black Friday etc., I haven’t indulged mainly because I only buy when there is a need to replace. Certainly, there are pretty things(clothing) and accessories at great prices but I don’t need most of them. I do need to replace a lamp and if I happen to get a discount now that will be a plus. I’m pretty sick of Americanisms flooding in but sad to say that stable door is already broken off and we have to boycott things and companies that don’t fit our own thinking. We have to be discerning and selctive in our buying power. I could rant about US attitude to commercial gain over the health and wellbeing of their people, in particular chemical companies. It’s a much bigger subject that includes, consumerism, pollution and political attitudes and sadly it’s exported worldwide. Some countries/companies are the opposite I’m glad to say and they should be applauded.
    It’s want over need as always, it plays to our base levels of missing out, hording, greed, always needing new or the latest thing and without it companies can’t expand and grow their wealth. We do have to change our attitude, worldwide, sooner rather than later.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 10:06 PM

      Elaine, on sewing for charity, I really recommend Making for Charity (they are included in some of the directories). It’s a really great charity in the UK that I worked with for a few years. Great quick and easy project.
      I absolutely agree with your assessment of the world and consumerism, especially the environmental damage that is being done through greed. I think little things, like saying no to Black Friday can mean small steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

  6. 26 November 2018 / 1:46 PM

    I knew it was coming, and I prepared. I revisited my stash and my patterns, found more than enough fabric except for some double-gauze after I found it on sale at $3 a yard. I’d been considering a few new patterns, so I held off until Black Friday and purchased when they went on sale. It comes around every year, so planning ahead is the trick.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 10:08 PM

      That is a great way to go about things, it definitely helps to curb impulse purchases and save a bit of money on things that you really need.

  7. LindaC in AZ
    26 November 2018 / 3:34 PM

    I think it’s interesting that so many of you associate Black Friday with an American holiday. I’m assuming Thanksgiving. I have never thought of it as a Thanksgiving thing. Doesn’t matter. It probably started because so many Americans don’t have to work the day after Thanksgiving. It becomes a 4-day weekend for us – but not all of us. If you have no interest in football games, I guess people went early shopping for Christmas. Retailers picked up on the opportunity and started running sales. I have always thought of it as a Christmas thing. LOL That said, I don’t go shopping on Black Friday. I prefer a quiet day at home and generally sales get better as Christmas gets closer. That brings us to buying “stuff.” I’m at the age where I’d rather purchase an experience than a thing. I have enough things, but I do have family that appreciates a gift at Christmas. I did all my shopping so far online, but I will go to the stores as Christmas gets closer to enjoy the ambiance and to pick up little bits. I need no sewing things. Nothing. At all. I’m full.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 10:10 PM

      I think we’re like that over here in the UK about Christmas (which makes it double worse that now we have Black Friday too). I really started hating Christmas since I moved to the UK because of all the associated consumerism. Though you are right, spending time with your loved ones is the most important thing.

  8. Vanessa
    26 November 2018 / 7:22 PM

    I think “Black Friday” was a bigger deal in Australia this year for the first time. Halloween has been growing in importance also (at least from the retail perspective). I dislike both trends heartily.

    I think I had two advantages which helped me resist shopping this year:
    1. Upcoming house move so lots of sorting, tossing, packing and no time to sew.
    2. Being pre-menstrual on the particular weekend and thus feeling cranky and “you can’t make me”!

    #1 is not going to be annual, and not sure I can arrange the timing of #2 for every year 🙂
    Perhaps by next year I will have sewn down my stash substantially and will be ready to “buy to sew now”.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      26 November 2018 / 10:12 PM

      I just hate going into shops (even without PMS as an excuse), at the best of times ha ha. I can’t imagine anything worse than scrumming it for Black Friday. I am trying to shop my stash as much as I can for sewing stuff, that’s free, right?

  9. 26 November 2018 / 10:53 PM

    As a consumer i just ignore black friday in general. But last year i have bought online classes to learn new skills. This year I bought nothing new through sales. I’ve already trained myself to reduce spending, consuming and rather borrow, make, shop second hand or indie.

    As a small business owner, selling pdf patterns, i do participate, sharing quite a nice discount with followers. Although there are many reasons why maybe I shouldn’t participate, many already mentioned by precious posters, but i chose to join in. Maybe I will change my mind next year…who knows. Here are a few reasons why I did join:

    – A lot of my customers are from the US.

    – It’s fun to see orders come in from people that already support my work and new people discovering my Work. I’ve done several happy dances welcoming people from the US, South Africa and even Iceland.

    – It’s exposure! It is increasingly harder to get your work seen through social networks, as soon as FB or IG know you are a business owner your engagement drops and the only way to really get your work seen by new people is often to pay for advertising…now I’d rahter discount my products for a few days than to give money to a company like Facebook. A black Friday sale helps me to reach new people. So if i have to choose between less money made because i have to pay Facebook or less money made because The sewing community gets a nice deal…the last one feels much friendlier to me.

  10. joostdecock
    27 November 2018 / 12:53 PM

    Thanks for the shout-out Alex, much appreciated <3

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I dislike black Friday as much as the next left-wing commie 🙂 Somehow it feels even more out of place here in mainland Europe where we are arguable a step further away from the US.

    Then again, I see the business point of view, and I totally get the lure of a bargain. But it's not for me.

    PS: Right after the buycott headline, you wrote 'boycott' when you meant 'buycott'. It's not that big of a deal, but since it's where you're actually explaining what a buycott is, it's somewhat confusing when you read it at first 😉

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