There are certain cultural differences between the US and the UK that cause no small amount of bemusement to those of us on this side of the Big Pond. For example, the odd differences in spelling (though I freely admit that one’s actually our fault). This might be another one. The Bookseller reports that UK bookshops are getting ready to hold their first “Civilised Saturday” (see, there’s that spelling thing again) on November 28th as a sort of “antidote” to the preceding day’s Black Friday. It’s being promoted through the “Books Are My Bag” website.

The idea is to run some kind of a more “civilised” shopping alternative to the madcap consumerist rush that goes on in most retail establishments on that particular Friday. Of course, the significance of that Friday at all is another place where you could put the blame on us Americans, as by tradition it’s the day after a US-only holiday, Thanksgiving. (Even the other Commonwealth country that celebrates its own Thanksgiving did so a couple of months ago, Canadians being the impatient people that they are.)

The Bookseller article suggests that this consumerist rush is a relatively recent thing in the UK, and some of the commotion around it comes as a bit of a shock–not exactly a surprise, given that a UK observance of Black Friday is probably largely an artifact of the new global community brought about by the Internet. After all, in the UK the day after a holiday they don’t even celebrate should ordinarily be just another day. But not anymore.

But “Civilised Saturday” seems to be a quintessentially British idea to American hillbilly me–a day to recover from all this unaccustomed rowdiness. And the way in which some of the booksellers plan to observe it seems delightfully British in itself:

Jasmine Denholme from Wenlock Books in Shropshire said: “We are going to have a pleasant afternoon in the bookshop, celebrating, handing out prosecco and, in the afternoon, we will have an afternoon tea, handing out cakes and fresh coffee.”

So bookstores in the UK can hand out prosecco to their customers? That’s a tradition I could get behind, though in a lot of places west of the Atlantic that would require a liquor license.

I can certainly see the need to promote bookstores during the holiday season. But it seems to me a far more “civilised” alternative to Black Friday shopping is the sort of shopping my parents and many other people do around this time of year: loading up their web browsers and going off to Amazon. Ever since they found Amazon, my parents have rejoiced in the ability to stay at home and avoid the crowds and traffic. Of course, that’s not a good alternative for the bookshops.

I also wonder just how “civilised” their Saturday can be, given that Black Friday is just the start of one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. If there’s a rush on Friday, when people (in the UK, anyway) still have to work, how much more of one would there be on Saturday?

In any event, best of luck to them, and may the holiday season bring them the same boost anticipated by other retailers. In this new digital age, they’re going to need it.


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