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Thoughts on Black Friday and a Giant THANK YOU!

Heidi Shenk

Every year, I am faced with a very familiar dilemma.  Thanksgiving arrives, we eat food and give thanks, and then I send out a newsletter email announcing a massive sale for my business. And each year, it sort of makes my stomach churn. It's not that I don't like offering a sale or discounts every now and again, but more so the consumerism of the whole weekend really bothers me.

I hate Black Friday. Yup, I hate it! To me, Black Friday and the other following days all feed into one giant conglomeration of gross consumerism. I'm not quite sure what trampling each other at a Wal-Mart for the best deal on a giant tv has to do with the holidays. And being somewhat of a minimalist, I prefer not to buy things just for the sake of buying things. While I'm not really religious, I still like to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season. For me, the holidays are about being thankful for what we have and giving to and caring about others. It's a chance for us to all take a step aside and reflect on each other as people instead of ourselves. It's about love.

However, in years past, I gave into the madness. I felt pressure to host a sale even though it didn't make me feel so great. Sales like that are tough for small, handmade businesses too. It's a juggle between your bottom line and the expectations of customers. It almost feels as though you have to compete with the big box stores and offer absurd discounts that may not really be feasible when you consider your time and materials. People forget that your costs are much higher than that of Target or Wal-Mart, and often times they overlook the amount of work you put into each item. It's almost as if they forget that small business owners are just that-- a business, a person trying to make a living and put food on the table and pay the bills.

As Thanksgiving neared, I struggled to feel even a bit alright about joining in with the shopping madness yet again. I began toying with the idea of trying to turn the weekend into a positive. I thought about how rough of a year this has been for many of us in Baltimore. We all need a little something to brighten our spirits in this city these days. And with that in mind, it just felt right to donate to non-profits in Baltimore and give back to my city.

After I made the decision to donate instead of host a sale, I began to worry. Would people be angry that I opted to go this route? This past weekend is usually one of my busiest times of year, and there are a large group of customers that only ever purchase from me if they have a coupon code. I was certain that I'd lose their business or that they would actually get upset with me for not hosting a sale this year. I had fully prepared myself for taking this on with the certainty in mind that I would actually lose business in comparison to previous years. And that in itself was a little scary to think about for a small business like mine.

However, the opposite happened. They still purchased their holiday cards. They still bought pencil sets to fill up their stockings. And they told me how excited they were that 20% of their sale was going to be donated. I even had two people come to my booth at the Charm City Flea on Saturday that had read my newsletter and were excited to make a purchase as a way of contributing to a charitable cause.

This past weekend was a success. This morning, I wrote checks for several hundred dollars for both Gather Baltimore and The Living Classroom Foundation's Believe in Music program. Most of all, I felt that these last few days made me have a little more hope for humanity. It reminded me that I'm not the only one that cares about others or has a general distaste for the consumeristic ways of our society. Most of all, I realized that people want to help each other. Sometimes, all we need is a little nudge or reminder to step up to the plate.

So, thank you! Thank you if you made a purchase this past weekend! Thank you if you made a donation to my chosen organizations! And most of all, thank you for proving me wrong and for showing me that people do care! I am so incredibly thankful for the people who I get to call my customers, and I am certain that they are the best people around. Because of you all, we're able to help programs that will continue to build and strengthen this amazing city that I get to call home.

xo Heidi



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