Every year we have people ask us why we don’t do Black Friday sales. This year, more than any before it, we have been asked that question in one form or another. It is a logical question after all. Everyone is doing them. Black Friday has become a bigger event on the retail calendar than Christmas. So here is an attempt to answer that question.
When I think of Black Friday I think of those videos that get circulated of people trampling upon people to get to deals faster than their own brothers. I think of people fighting over the last items in the store swearing and threatening each other in a desperate attempt to be the person to walk out with it. I think of our kids tagging along and growing up learning through this cultural liturgy that this is what we hope for every November. That this is what we are becoming. I think of the metaphorical graveyard that creativity comes to die as we as lemmings flock mindlessly to the tune of unhealthy capitalism while our houses fill with junk and our planet struggles under the weight of trying to support so much excess. I think of us losing our humanity, losing our identity, sacrificing each other at the altar of an economy that needs days like this to keep the unhealthy cogs turning. I think of anything but community.
Probably more than ever, the online world has exasperated this issue. Which includes stores like ours. Day by day we can invade your scroll and entice your desires for more things. Offering you the best prices without even having to get off your chair. No queues, no uncomfortable encounters with people, no finding parking, no putting your kids in the car and having to put up with their exhaustion at the sheer madness of shopping centres on a day like this. And so Black Friday is now everywhere. Everywhere you look. On every device. Accessible to every person who has the internet and a card, often equipped with money they don’t have.
We’ve never had a desire to be part of Black Friday. The reason lies in what we have always hoped Write GEAR would become and what we hoped Write GEAR would inspire. Something that Black Friday detracts from heavily.
When we think of Write GEAR and Fountain Pens in general we think of pens, paper and people engaging in the tactile experience of lines forming on the page. Sometimes random doodles can form deeply meaningful things. We think of art and writing, design and planning, work and sometimes even escape. We think of beautiful tools that help us Disconnect from the noise of being constantly tethered. We think of helping people unlock creativity rather than being assaulted with advert after advert in the world of the mindless scroll where geniuses use these tools to feed our inherent greed. We think of friends. Of retired engineer and pen maker Ziets. Of the generous stationery loving, journaling influencer Marina. We think of the architect, artist and avid pen enthusiast Heleen. We think of Julian, Sharon, Dewald, Freddie, Bruno, Werner and the list can go on and on of names of people who are not just another order but people we have come to regard as friends of Write GEAR and ourselves personally. We think of a community of like-minded people passionate about the tools and things they use to create. We think of a community that is generous, caring, supportive and creative.
Somehow what we have tried to achieve as Write GEAR and what we imagine Black Friday to be are just not compatible. We aim to help people Disconnect. Create. Write. We aim to help people enjoy the tactile experience of the analogue that we hope brings out their inherent creativity, their inherent ability to do good and meaningful work, that helps them to be more human. I mean isn’t this what centuries of artists, artisans, writers, and anyone trying to do good work has done? Hasn’t good meaningful work and creative expression always been like the mythic prophetic figures calling generation after generation not to get lost into the Zeitgeist, into the spirit of the age, calling us to be more human?
We have been inspired by the outdoor clothing brand “Patagonia” and their full page New York Times advert that asked people to not buy their jacket on Black Friday. Instead they offered their customers free repairs on any of their jackets through a mobile repair centre that was making its rounds around New York City. There is something profound in their act. Not just in their desire to reduce their footprint on the planet but in the idea that sometimes a well-used and loved tool is better than a basketful of new ones.
I have very little doubt that nationwide this will probably be the biggest Black Friday of all time. Riots, racial tension, almost two years of the effects of Covid has had a dramatic effect on us. Most of us are probably a little unhappier than we normally are and so retail therapy is just more tempting than usual. The hope of something new bringing in a ray of sunlight into what has been a pretty overcast year. But like Patagonia, we suggest that possibly we will be a little happier today by dusting off our old pens, unused notebooks and bottles of inks than getting a bunch of new ones. Like the US celebrating Thanksgiving yesterday, perhaps we will be a little happier embodying that act. Being thankful. Not just for what we can get today, but for what we already have and for the people and community we have in our lives.
So this Black Friday and the next, we will not have any specials. And when we do not I hope you do not think it is not because we are not grateful for all our amazing customers. We most certainly are. It is because we believe the best way we can value our customers at a time like this is by staying true to our underlying purpose. To help you Disconnect. Create. Write. Which on a day like Black Friday it is standing in resistance to the noise filled mania of rampant consumerism and encouraging others to remind themselves that this is not what makes us human, what makes us creative beings, what makes us happy.