Thanksgiving break has unfortunately come to an end, and we’re all in the home stretch of the semester now. With the weekend behind us, the much-awaited events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are, too. While Thanksgiving Day is spent giving thanks, Black Friday tends to completely reverse the sentiments of Thanksgiving.

REI made a strong statement about consumerism and closed all of its locations on Black Friday this year, giving employees paid-leave to spend the day outdoors. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

REI made a strong statement about consumerism and closed all of its locations on Black Friday this year, giving employees paid-leave to spend the day outdoors. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

With all the melee of Black Friday shopping, it is hard to believe that the people who folded their hands in gratitude on Nov. 26 were the same people to snatch veggie steamers from children on Nov. 27. I guess 70 percent-off discounts and buy-one-get-one-free promotions really do bring out the best in us! While most of us leave stores with ridiculously inexpensive items, and our bodies intact, the burden of dealing with crazy shoppers falls mostly on hapless employees. This year, however, REI decided to close all 143 of its outlets nationwide on the one day that results in some of the biggest sales of the year. Instead, they offered their 12,000 employees a paid leave to enjoy the great outdoors, and all of the adventures that come with it.

It would be hypocritical of me to look down on Black Friday, considering I did my fair share of online shopping (as I am still too scared to face the mobs in person), but REI’s #optoutside campaign is one that I stand behind. Ask anyone working in retail and they will readily express their fear and disdain for the busiest Friday of the year. You can bet it is the only Friday they aren’t thanking God for! REI decided to stand by their own mission and promote the idea that their employees should take a breath of fresh air and enjoy being outside.

Many would suggest that they’re committing business suicide by missing out on a great deal of cash, but REI chose to make a direct statement about defying the demands of Black Friday. I, on the other hand, believe that this nonconformist attitude is what will set them apart from other retail outlets. Black Friday is increasingly becoming an event that is talked about in a negative light, and being a company that refuses the follow-the-pack mentality just to make big bucks is sure to bring REI some brownie points.

Employees working at REI were glad to get the day off away from the frenzy that comes with Black Friday. All of them understand that the #optoutside campaign has its downsides, as the company’s sales will take a hit, but they agree that it’s worth it in order to make a statement. With consumerism on the rise, it’s easy to forget that our own Mother Earth has a lot to offer — and guess what? It’s absolutely free! Certainly, this is not to prevent people from fulfilling their own materialistic needs (I have them too), but one should not forget that there’s more to life than just extremely cheap veggie steamers and television sets. Kudos to REI for taking a bold step forward!