In a north London mall on Wednesday, staff were gearing up for Black Friday. Some workers were dreading it. A young saleswoman said: "They're like animals tearing into a carcass. Last year a customer pushed into me, I went into a wall and sprained my wrist. She didn't mean to do it and was really sorry. But something happens to people." This buy, buy, buy day has led to seven deaths and 90 injuries in the US since 2006. The diabolical American ritual has now been established here, together with that other fiendish import, Halloween, a pagan festival of death and ghouls.
This week I have had emails from fashion, furniture and hi-tech stores, urging, nagging me to get discounted gear before the Black Friday rush. Museums have got into the game too, offering replicas at low, low prices. My Samsung phone is five years old, that makes me and it ancient and useless. Retail giants are selling bargain price happiness, fulfilment and ecstasy. People in all classes find it hard to resist the deals and promises. My friend, a female hospital doctor, has taken the morning off so she can stock up on gifts and tat. Something really does happen to people on this day.
A survey by PWC found that shoppers planned to spend hundreds of pounds on new electronic and white goods, such is the strong compulsion to binge buy on one specified day, a day fixed by marketing folk and manufacturers of false needs and fake wants.
Some major outlets are using Brexit to persuade people that prices are all going to rise substantially. And so fear is mixed in with greed, group think, instant gratification, envy and guaranteed consumer gullibility.
Sebastian James, Dixon Carphone's chief executive can't wait to throw the doors open. He is confident this will be the biggest trading day for his company, as it has been for four years.
Though early reports indicate that fewer customers than before have been queuing up for their must-have goods. Analysts believe £2bn pounds will be spent in the next 24 hours.
Consumers really, really believe they are getting amazing deals when actually they are being manipulated and used. The trick has to persuade them that they are being really clever and canny. This is stupid consumerism, not smart consumerism.
My husband, an experienced financial regulator, tells me Britons are accumulating frightful amounts of debt. (Much to the embarrassment of our daughter, he still hangs on to his phone which has proper keys to press down and no internet). So, individuals, families and the nation itself are floating on borrowed cash on a lake which appears calm but often turns dangerous, pulling down boats and people.
The psychology of mob buying is fascinating. In a learned article on Marxism and consumerism in The Guardian, journalist Stuart Jeffries pays homage to the German Jewish philosopher, Walter Benjamin. The philosopher, writes Jeffries, recognised that "we are locked into a kind of degrading compulsion; we buy new stuff to conceal from ourselves our disappointment about the failings of the old stuff. And then the new stuff becomes the old, and so we upgrade – in part to hide from ourselves our disappointment at the unbearable failure of our earlier purchase...what we are doing is nuts."
Some months back, on my way to the BBC early in the morning I saw a line of huddled, tired, unshaven and dishevelled people sleeping or just waking up on the pavement on Regents Street. Tears sprang to my eyes. I thought they were the young homeless. The taxi driver laughed out loud. These, he informed me, were "idiots" who were queuing up for some new model trainers which were about to go on sale at a particular shop.
My husband and I have avoided this madness. Up to a point. Our kitchen, oven and other essential equipment is between six and eleven years old. The furniture is older and still looking good. I bought my flat in 1978, (don't ask me for how much – don't want to make you weep). Although estate agents hound us, we never upsized to a house – the best decision ever. The place is beautiful, spacious, good enough to see us through to the end of our days. So, when it comes to the household, we are sensible and content.
However, with clothes and accessories, I am as bad and mad as Black Friday consumers. My cupboards are full, yet I cannot resist buying the next lovely dress or top, earrings or shoes. I hide stuff sometimes because I am ashamed of my profligacy.
The modern malignancy will spread and kill all prudence and national self restraint. Stay away from the shops today. I promise I'll buy less. Let's take the first steps to recovery from this national addiction.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a journalist, columnist, broadcaster and author.