The last couple of days, my Instagram feed has filled with the #optoutside hashtag, as Insta connections spend the day in nature and the outdoors instead of dedicating time in retail spaces or in front of their computer.
Part of me is glad for that, although I suspect that most of the people I know would choose the #optoutside path. Not in response to Black Friday. It’s just what they like to do with their free time.
I experience some duality of feeling when I think about #optoutside, a hashtag popularized by REI last year, when it closed its retail stores on Black Friday and encouraged everyone to go outdoors for the day. I resist doing anything a corporation tells me to do, especially if it comes with a hashtag theme, even if I think it might be a good idea.
To me, Black Friday and #optoutside are two sides of the same coin. Yes, REI is showing empathy and understanding of its customers, as this AdAge article wrote last year, and that is clever marketing. Yet it is still marketing, and I chafe against that.
I don’t want to get too cynical about the whole #optoutside thing, but I don’t need a large outdoor retail company with a robust online presence to tell me how to spend my free time during the Friday after Thanksgiving and, as an extra bonus, suggest how I hashtag it.
In the past, I’ve worked the day after Thanksgiving or spent it in the company of friends, usually on a bicycle. This year I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving at Friday Coffee Club and then went for a nice 40+ mile ride with a nap chaser. I read Coffeeneuring Challenge submissions. It was lovely and organic. I was grateful for the day. No hashtag needed.
Thanks for this. While I appreciate the sentiment of what REI is doing, yeah, it is marketing. And it’s a bit smug and self-righteous too. What about those of us who have to work on Black Friday? Not everyone gets that day off, especially if you work at a retailer that isn’t REI.
And I’m a bit bitter at REI right now: While they espouse all these ideals and values, out here in the West they’ve been using one particular cut-rate shipping company to get their “free” packages to customers. That’s all pure bottom line. This company’s rates are less than UPS or USPS (or even FedEx!) but the “employees” of this delivery service are all “contract” so they get no benefits or union protection.
At the very least I hope that all the REI employees got paid for Friday.
In any case, and to end this on a more positive note, I knew of a few shops in Portland who didn’t do either Black Friday or hashtag opt outside. Instead, they did “open shop day” where people could come in and work on their own bikes. I can get behind that. Or that of another outdoor retailer who gave 100% of Black Friday profits to worthy organizations.
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This morning I was reading about the OptOutside marketing concept and came across this article that explores “Green Friday” and how attainable that actually is. It also talks about REI’s campaign as a “lighter green” compared to a company like Patagonia.
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Zero retail for us. Worked around the house and then went out for a ride on our tandem followed by reading and then a movie. Nice to not have to battle crowds. Did do a little small business Saturday.