Good Friday – duffer thoughts

Good Friday is on the face of it a rather odd term, even if its origins are not “good“. In Swedish it is called “Långfredag”, literally “Long Friday”. When I was a wee lad, Good Friday was a day when no shops were open, it was a very silent day, even in town. It felt long. This was of course a left over from more Christian days. It was rather “dead” outside, as we would say. Not that it was a crime to take walks or drive a car, but it was a relative stand still. Sweden was pretty secularised back then, but the day still had some meaning, also for non-religious, than that being “dead”. That changed a rather long time ago. I recall during my first visit to Australia in 1983 I was rather stunned by the fact that in central Sydney (Martin Place and surroundings) food shops closed early on Saturday and were closed on Sunday. It wasn’t much of a residential area, although there was some backpacker places there. But still… Europe is comparatively secularised, and Sweden is probably one of the least conservative. My impression is some European countries still have rather strong rules about opening hours on Sundays and holidays. In parts of the world where the seven day week has no religious significance, shops can of course be open any day and time, even if tradition and religion is still strong.

These days Sweden probably has one of the most liberal opening hours for shops in Europe. Big supermarkets are often open 7-22, seven days a week. Some even open at 6. It’s like people can’t plan their life. I know I sound like a grumpy old bastard now, but it’s like shopping is the new religion. I know there is a market for food shopping in early mornings, but not sure why big supermarkets feel the need to be open as much as seveneleven et al. It is costly, personnel cost more in evenings and in weekends (if not, their salaries would be quite shitty). Of course shops find it necessary to be open as much as their competitors, but the whole food and household market does not increase very much just because shoppers can’t plan. Combine this with a lot of food waste in shops. Good for dumpster divers, but not for anyone else. So, with waste, plus increased salary costs due to extreme long opening hours, how does this market work and how do they make profit? There are of course improvements in logistics, there are also fewer tariffs, at least inside the EU. But the whole thing works because the producers usually get low pay, and/or their employees, at the bottom of the chain. There is also a growing “anarchy” in the transport sector.

There is a slight irony in that while people working at shops are having more and more off-hours working hours, office workers just get less. Not counting call centers etc. It can be quite hard to reach people at work on Friday afternoons. Different relations to the productive forces. All gears in the machine are equal, but some are more equal than others. Once upon a time, offices (and schools) were open also on Saturdays.

The whole increased opening hours also works like a constant reminder that we are consumers. The dreams of drones delivering everything at an instance are even more on this evolutionary path. Need for instant gratification, like babies.

Grumpy grumble grumble.

I talked to my father, who is even more duffer than me (obviously, doh!) about Good Friday when he was young (he was born in 1929). He told me cinemas were also closed, in a time when cinemas were The Big Mass Entertainment together with radio. It was a lot cheaper back then. He also said that there were only 2 or 3 restaurants open in the whole of Stockholm on Good Friday. With special permission.

Different times. But even I remember the difference. Interesting differences, and maybe subtle in the way it is not readily discovered on Wikipedia (like changes in e.g. fashion, ethnic composition and economy are). I am sure it is not surprising as secularisation is an ongoing process. Secularisation is a process firstly aimed at religions traditions of the domestic culture (regardless of country), something which many naive cultural relativists fail to grasp. Or play along with.

2 Comments

  1. Your comments about ever longer opening hours reminds me that there was a bit of a debate in Belgium (or maybe Flanders, or possibly just Antwerp. Decentralisation can be very confusing sometimes.) about Sunday opening.

    One of the groups that was opposed was the retailers federation. Their argument was that, for the most part, Sunday trading would just leave them spending more time (with the higher costs) selling exactly the same amount of goods.

    Of course, if one shop opens everyone else feels obliged to follow suit. Which is why they were keen on retaining the legal restrictions.

    • Interesting!
      If increase in hours and costs are bigger than increased sales, productivity is lowered. I guess they want to collectively avoid that. 🙂

      In Japan department stores are open on weekends, but closed to customers one weekday a week, or at least a few weekdays per month. Different model. I have no idea if employees have markedly better pay on weekends, though.

      Supermarkets are open every day, a few even 24/7, afaik a practice that started in Kobe after the great earthquake in 1995.

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