If you choose to brave the crowds on Black Friday, experts advise to beware of both the retailers and other shoppers. One customer service associate likened Black Friday to the Hunger Games. More than one fistfight has broken out over a discounted TV, pajama set, and a toaster that wasn’t even on sale. Physical altercations can also occur while waiting in line. Because simply saving money isn’t enough; some Black Friday shoppers want to do it more quickly than everybody else.
Black Friday used to be a fun way to kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. Mother/daughter teams got up early after a day of cooking, filled their coffee cups, and hit the aisles in the dark of early morning looking for bargains. It was a fun way to spend time together while scoring great deals on Christmas gifts and maybe a few necessities.
The sales make sense because most retailers earn the bulk of their yearly profits during the Christmas shopping season. And consumers spend the bulk of their gift-giving money during this season. According to the National Retail Foundation, the average shopper is expected to spend $1,048 on holiday purchases this year. That is only slightly less than my monthly mortgage payment.
Black Friday sales have crept up earlier on the calendar in recent years, with stores now advertising pre-Black Friday sales that begin as early as the preceding Monday. Many stores officially start their big holiday sales on Thursday afternoon, cutting into family time traditionally enjoyed on Thanksgiving Day.
I recently read an article warning consumers of the various ways that retailers try to dupe shoppers into thinking they are getting a better deal than they really are. Inflated original prices and low-value freebies are two common methods. Mail-in rebates are a good deal for retailers because they are a hassle for consumers and require waiting several weeks to receive your refund check. “Limited time only,” “Hurry now while supplies last,” and tickers counting down the final minutes of a sale are all designed to cultivate a sense of urgency among consumers.
Doorbuster deals usually sell out quickly, as they are steeply discounted to draw shoppers into the store. Marketing psychology suggests that FOMO adds to the adrenaline rush that bargain shoppers crave. A multitude of articles circulates the web each year to help shoppers strategize to buy the largest amount of items for the least amount of money.
In preparation for the annual event, retailers heavily advertise their sales. Product reviewers and business writers publish articles comparing the best in-store and online discounts. The best deals usually sell out quickly, so strategy and swift action are necessary to score the best stand mixer or gaming system.
Black Friday isn’t the only route to instant gratification via discount pricing, though. Since its inception in the 1950s, the biggest shopping day of the year has begotten Cyber Monday, which begat Small Business Saturday. Basically, shoppers are encouraged to buy, buy, buy anywhere and anyhow they can.
Black Friday is coming, and it ain’t afraid to fight dirty. Go forth and battle if you must, tributes. The rest of us will be sitting at home in our pajama pants, eating leftover pumpkin pie and feeling satisfied with the toasters and laptops we already own.