May 29, 2024
PHOTO BY ELISSA DEN HOED Adnan Ahmeti, an aspiring Conestoga College student who wants to study police foundations, is shown saving his cash on Buy Nothing Day, which gives consumers the power to say no to spending for one day.


On Nov. 25 at Fairview Park Mall, the Tim Hortons’ lineup stretched long enough to resemble the Great Wall of China, scores of people scurried around carrying bags, and the Wal-Mart parking lot was packed. It was the biggest shopping day of the year, known in the United States as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. This year is the first year the one-day shopping frenzy came to Canada.

Ironically, it was also Buy Nothing Day (BND), much less known even though it’s been around Canada since the early ’90s. BND, founded by artist Ted Dave in Vancouver, is an annual consumerism awareness day promoted by Adbusters, an anti-capitalist magazine which also inspired the Occupy movement, participated in by over 65 countries.

 In some cities, BND activities can include a “Whirly Mart,” a conga-line of protesters silently pushing empty  shopping carts through a Wal-Mart; a credit card cut-up, a friendly outside-the-store offer to destroy shoppers’ credit cards with a quick snip, or a “Zombie Walk,” a group walk through a mall with group members wearing blank-faced stares.

When asked if she supported the philosophy behind BND, Bev McCarroll, at the end of the mile-long Tim Hortons’ lineup, shrugged and gestured to the large box in the shopping cart she was leaning over. “Well, I’ve already bought something, so no.”

Judging by the crowd Friday afternoon, it doesn’t look like anyone’s ready to give up the goods anytime soon – much less organize a peaceful protest. The only thing that made this day at Fairview Park Mall different than any other day at the mall was the amount of money changing hands, thanks to the newly introduced Black Friday.

Brian, a shopper in Wal-Mart who refused to give his last name, thought for several moments about this day he’d never heard of before and finally concluded, “I think it’s a waste. If people are going so far as to organize protests, it’s a waste of time and resources.”

A toy shopper at Canadian Tire had almost the opposite opinion. Siobain MacIntyre never heard of the holiday but liked the sound of it. She said she could easily last a day without buying and might even participate next year.

A group of Canadian Mennonites founded the notion of Buy Nothing Christmas. If that’s too extreme, suggests making it a “buy less” holiday.

Best Buy CD browser Rachel Smith said shopping distracts from what Christmas should really be about. “We spend more time spending money on each other than we spend time with each other.”

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