Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Was Black Friday Treasure Island - or Jekyll and Hyde?

Robert Louis Stevenson is famous for the novels he wrote, including 'Kidnapped' 'Treasure Island' and 'Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde', which are all available as free eBooks through the likes of Amazon (although they will let you pay someone - presumably Stevenson's estate, but I'm not convinced - a small amount.  You take your choice, but legally the book is out of copyright). He also displayed an interesting approach to birthdays by gifting his to the son of one of his acquaintances. He reckoned that he was too old to be celebrating birthdays and felt that two birthdays for a child was a better use of the day. Of course he was a famous author and presumably had a comfortable lifestyle, so was prepared to forego the annual receipt of birthday presents. I don't know if he took what appears to me to be an obvious extension to his gesture and stopped buying presents for all and sundry - after all, without a birthday there would be no need to reciprocate. Let's call that rule one.

Of course this was before the consumer boom that fuelled the credit crunch, so perhaps there wasn't the same imperative to provide presents costing an arm and a leg for everyone he knew. Also he seems to have retained his rights to Christmas presents.

As we approach the holiday season, having witnessed Black Friday in the UK being imported by ASDA, the UK arm of Wal-Mart, I guess we haven't lost our appetite for consuming totally, austerity or no. We have had Black Friday in the UK for some years, but predominantly as an on-line experience. To my knowledge this was the first time a major retailer in the UK has run a Black Friday promotion. At my local ASDA I witnessed a lot of large screen TVs being pushed out of the store by people with grins almost as wide as the TVs they had bought. I also read about arguments and even fights breaking out in some stores as stocks ran low, apparently a phenomenon also imported from the US on Black Friday. I'm sure that wasn't the publicity ASDA wanted but overall I suspect it's here to stay and I'd be very surprised if other high street retailers didn't join in next year.

Maybe with more choice the apparent need for violence and abuse won't be as great but somehow I doubt it. I'm not sure what Robert Louis Stevenson would have made of the spectacle, watching people who normally shop courteously becoming so aggressive. Perhaps there was more in Doctor Jekyll than meets the eye, maybe Black Friday is the secret mixture that turns nice people bad? Maybe RLS might have given his Christmas away as well as his birthday if he witnessed last weeks events.

I don't know if giving Christmas away is a viable option - I like to consume as much as the next guy and Christmas day provides an opportunity for the mutual exchange of gifts. But birthdays - perhaps he had a valid point there. Kids get more out of them, or at least should do, than adults. Here's my view on gifting birthdays, especially for those of with birthdays not in January and December. Why those two months? Well I've a few young relatives with birthdays reasonably close to Christmas and I reckon they are most likely to have a reduced birthday gift allocation due to the proximity to the big day. It must be especially difficult for those who are born on December 25th. My guess is those who have birthdays adjacent to Christmas probably deserve to hang onto theirs longer.

So here's my extension to RLS's idea. Those of us above a certain age gift our birthday to a child. I would suggest that initially we choose kids that we think deserve a second birthday, that is, kids we like. Next in the hierarchy should be the kids of parents we don't particularly like - well it's a big sacrifice so we might as well get some personal satisfaction - or Schadenfreude- from the gift. In fact reverse those, my inner B L O'Feld is grinning at the mayhem gifting birthdays will provide. And let's not forget rule one from above - eliminate the need for reciprocation and we might actually be able to accommodate the increased costs from Black Friday as we buy bargains we never considered buying in the first place, preventing those 60" plasma screen grins turning to half inch pursed lips when the credit card statement arrives in January.

Maybe it will be antidote to the mixture that created Mr Hyde?

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