Maybe someone can explain something to me. When did we as a society decide that every italicized date on the calendar needed a corresponding retail sale? It dawned on me a couple weeks ago as one of the most absurd sentences I’ve heard in a while belted from my TV during a commercial break:
“Hurry now for 20% off our entire stock of bed linens during our Martin Luther King Day sale.”
Ok, now I’m no historian. And I wasn’t alive during the Civil Rights Movement, but I feel like I can say with confidence that Dr. King’s big dream wasn’t for future generations to save 20% on bed linens. I’m fairly confident those college students who risked everything to sit at a lunch counter in a Woolworths weren’t discussing how great it was going to be that one day their children could get 0.9% financing on an SUV.
A Martin Luther King Day sale? Really? And then it occurred to me that we also hear things like “Veteran’s Day sale” and “Memorial Day Sale” and “Labor Day Sale.” Personally, I’m pumped for the Arbor Day sale. You already know from my Mother’s Day post how I feel about trees. I can’t wait to honor them with a new set of towels.
Look, I get it. We’re a capitalist society. Capitalism functions a lot better when its citizens buy into consumerism (slight pun intended). For consumerism to work, you need materialism. For materialism to stay viable retailers have to convince us we need things we don’t by bombarding us with percentage signs.
But still, Martin Luther King Day? A great, brave man gave his life for a cause that reshaped our entire culture, and we’re asked to honor his memory by shopping. You really want to impress me Mr. Car Dealership and Ms. Retail Outlet? Show me how you better your community by sending your employees on a service project. Spend your MLK Day advertising budget explaining what you’re doing to fight for justice, equality, and doing what’s right as an example for your customers.
And no, extending store hours until midnight doesn’t count.