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Black Friday: The Dark Side of Humanity

This article was written by in Consumer. 21 comments.


It is a sad commentary on our culture when not only are people willing to trample and hurt each other to scramble for what is perceived to be a “good deal” but when such trampling is glorified by the media. (Crazy people drive ratings, and ratings drive large advertising profits for the media!)

No one ever saved money by spending money. Whether because of the economic downturn or due to more media focus on the art of bargain hunting, being able to clip coupons or respond to advertisements touting low prices is now considered a “skill” worthy of attention. Saving money is an important part of building a solid future, but the idea that saving $500 off a high-definition television or finding two years’ worth of toilet paper for $10 is going to move anyone towards that goal is just plain ignorance.

You save money by not spending it. That’s the only guaranteed method of giving yourself the freedom of not needing to worry about your financial situation in the future. That isn’t to say you should never spend money, but it is imperative to recognize that every spending choice requires a decision. With every decision, weigh the financial consequences.

Yes — you could save $500 on an HDTV by beating down the crowd, grabbing the box, and running to the cashier. But you could save much more than $500 by buying a television that was considered cutting-edge just one year ago. You could save more than $500 by waiting a few months for when the new models come out and today’s model is discounted even more. You could save more than $500 by keeping the same television you’ve had that has been working perfectly for the last few years. Sure, there’s something to be said for upgrading your equipment once in a while, but it’s better to do so when you’re not under the perceived pressure that retailers create during the Black Friday frenzy.

The more I see videos of shoppers acting like idiots when stores open the Black Friday gates, the more I lean towards supporting Buy Nothing Day. It’s not a logical response; someone determined to spend $2,000 for himself and another $2,000 for holiday gifts, postponing the purchases until after Black Friday doesn’t have an effect (other than possibly avoiding stressful shopping situations and mobs of death).

Shopping online on Black Friday (or Cyber Monday) is one way to avoid the madness of humanity on this shopping day. In past years, retailers did not properly support their websites, so online shoppers faced frustration when trying to purchase items from popular stores, but these companies have since learned how to prepare their online storefronts for waves of traffic from shoppers’ computers. If you’re going to shop on this crazy day, at least do it from the comfort of your own home (or office on Monday).

Do not obsess yourself with hunting for these deals. For the most part, it’s smoke-and-mirrors and bait-and-switch, to the extent it’s legal, though some retailers are fine pushing the boundaries of false advertising during the holiday season. You’re not doing yourself any favors in the long run regardless of what deals you think you’re getting. At best, you’re getting a good feeling of winning, beating the retailers, or doing something exclusive. These are just psychological mind tricks and you have done nothing to help your long-term financial condition.

If you like finding deals, acknowledge you’re doing it because you like the game, and you’re attracted by the satisfaction, not because it’s a healthy financial skill or an approach to life that will leave you financially better off.

Deal seeking has grown into a huge industry, as I mentioned when I wrote about the hoax of Black Friday. I’ve been writing here at Consumerism Commentary for almost ten years, and many times so-called “experts” in what has become a business of creating successful advertising-based websites in the financial arena have encouraged me to set up an area of this website for the “best deals” or coupons with information fed to the site from advertisers. There are many websites that operate this way, and I have nothing against them or those who operate them, but with my feelings about the detrimental effects of deal-seeking, it was not something I could not do in good conscience.

I’d like to think that most, if not all, Consumerism Commentary readers who do line up outside stores on Black Friday do not trample other people or yell or fight. While not everyone may agree with me about the futility of this kind of deal shopping from a long-term perspective, from the feedback I’ve received over the past decade, most of the community considers financial consequences to spending decisions and isn’t as swayed by deal-focused advertising as the average American consumer.

It’s fine if you want to go shopping on Black Friday. Keep this in mind:

  • Don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.
  • Be respectful of the employees who have to work at the stores and deal with inconsiderate adults acting like children.
  • Recognize the deal you may be getting isn’t that good of a deal.
  • Accept you’re not doing yourself of your family as much as a financial favor you think you are.

Photo: Flickr

Published or updated November 23, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Investor Junkie

To think people do this stuff for useless crap. I can only imagine what people would do for things they really need.

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avatar Robert

I maintain a Master List of items I believe I may need in the short and long term.

Black Friday does present some opportunities to purchase items at a discount. One thing learned over the years, is that the item being offered on sale can be found on the Store’s Website for the same price or someone else will have the item for the same or lower price. So I have been able to purchase what I need, get free delivery and not having to fight the crowds.

One thing my Dad taught me, is that a deal is not a deal, if you do not have a need for it at the moment or if you do not have the funds to buy it. It is best to skip it.

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avatar qixx ♦1,813 (Half-Dollar)

Just to tell you how mus most Blak Friday deals are, where i work most of the Black Friday non-Doorbuster items were cheaper before thanksgiving. A lot of the doorbusters are things we don’t normally carry. Such that if the one you bought is broken we will never have any to replace it with. And most doorbusters are in fact lower quality that the non-doorbuster versions. The doorbusters we normally carry were all cheaper sometime this year that was not yesterday.

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avatar Melissa@LittleHouseintheValley

Thank you for this post. I couldn’t agree more. Black Friday shopping at the store is senseless since they usually have a larger supply online. Why not shop from home, or, as you say, why shop at all? I didn’t buy anything this year or last year on Black Friday because I didn’t “need” anything.

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avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

I see the pictures of Black Friday shoppers on the news and I think that they must be nuts. I don’t want anything that bad. Our extended family has gone to a gift swap, everyone brings one gift and we have a gift picking game. It truly makes everything so much easier. For the older folks, I buy food items at the grocery store that I know they really need and will use.

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avatar Ted Jenkin

The real darth vader in all of this are corporations who have an insatiable appetite for earnings and nothing will stop them from trying to get more. If they continue to open up stores on Thanksgiving, I recommend we all pull up a chair and some food and watch football right in the stores next year.

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avatar Investor Junkie

Ted this is a collectivist comment. Corporations are run and owned by people. The people who own benefit from increased profit (which in fact can be used to spend in the economy) The only way to get profit is from keep customers happy. So therefore the only reason they open on thanksgiving is because of customer demand. Businesses are not “evil” if they are seeing to maximize profit. In the end if the customers don’t like the service (which can include opening stores on Thanksgiving) then customers will not use them.

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avatar jim

Ok is “collectivist” a cute way to call someone a communist?

Corporations do all sorts of things to seek profit that does not help their customers. Sometimes corporations are in fact bad. And seeking profit to benefit customers doesn’t make it OK nor justify it. Nor does everything a company do actually benefit customers directly nor is really to meet the needs of customers.

I’m not saying corporations are evil in this case or evil in general. But surely corporations can do bad things and its not justified by them being ran by people or profiting their shareholders or benefiting customers.

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avatar Investor Junkie

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism

In this context I’m referring that individuals should have the power to make up their own minds to determine what’s “right”.

My point is regarding if customers dislike what a company is doing, they will no longer use them. If they dislike how they treat their employees and a big enough issue to them, then they will no longer use that firm.

In the end what Ted is suggesting might be considered a good cause, but in most cases individuals buying the products don’t care. They want their need resolved. They are acting in their best self interest. Just like the employee, and the owners of the company.

Companies no doubt can act bad. Hence why we have laws and regulations. Though my point is do you really want government to decide if they can or cannot open on Thanksgiving? Does this require any legal changes?

The issue in this case that companies aren’t “evil”. They are simply satisfying a need to be open that day. Otherwise if there weren’t a need, they would realize it’s a waste of time/money to be open that day. No need – then no desire to do it.

The finger pointing should be at the “collective” us. We like the stores to be open on Thursday and go out that day. We have no one to blame but ourselves (ok probably not the commenters on this post, but you get the idea). The companies in this situation are not doing anything “evil”.

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avatar Michael

I tend to agree with Investor Junkie. As stupid as I think Thursday sales on Thanksgiving are, we don’t need to ban them (though it’s not clear that anyone was necessarily suggesting that we go that far). If someone wants to waste their holiday waiting in line for cheap crap at Toys’R'Us, more power to them. But you won’t find me there. I’ll be at home enjoying some downtime with my family.

avatar jim

OK well thats fair enough. I think I read your statements like : “Businesses are not “evil” if they are seeing to maximize profit.” and thought you meant hat kind of thing in general, not just specific to being open on Thanksgiving. Hard to know if you’re not specific, but I guess I misunderstood your point.

avatar Andy

My Harmony remote failed three weeks ago. The cheapest I could find a replacement was for $70 on Amazon. Best Buy had it for $39.99 on Black Friday. I had $10 in discounts and 5% cash back from my credit card at Best Buy.

The total price I paid, including tax and with the cash back, was $30.20

Thanks to the leaked ads I was able to save nearly $40 by waiting a few weeks.

If you do your research and it is an item that you need, their are deals out there.

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avatar Daisy @ Everything Finance

Black Friday makes me sad. There’s really nothing more depressing than thinking that people might actually trample each other, get into verbal disputes and spend hoardes of money that they don’t have just for a product. I have never been one to participate in things like black Friday and I probably never will be.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Years ago, when my daughter was 2, I was shopping when someone ran her over with no apology. It wasn’t called black Friday back then, but I have stayed home ever since.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,364 (Platinum)

Companies and their marketers are very good at understanding psychology. If they can make the consumer *feel* as if they’re missing something by not shopping on Thanksgiving, suddenly they’ve created the demand for the service they had already planned to provide. It’s not as simple as consumers demanding stores be open on Thanksgiving, and companies having little choice but to bow to those demands.

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avatar Investor Junkie

This is a good point, but they aren’t doing a Jedi mind trick on people “These aren’t the droids you are looking for…”. So are we to assume people lack control of their own will? How are we able to resist the “dark side”? :-)

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avatar jim

Yeah. I don’t remember hearing of any large consumer demand for stores to be open on Thanksgiving. I think the stores opened on Thanksgiving to give themselves what they figure is a competitive edge and then touted the fact.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,364 (Platinum)

Well there are some psychologists who do say that free will is an illusion when faced with the overpowering, well-funded marketing machine of retail… but I don’t go to that extreme in my personal understanding of people. It takes a good amount of self-awareness to combat marketing forces, and that’s not an incredibly common strength.

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avatar Evan

“So are we to assume people lack control of their own will? How are we able to resist the “dark side”? :-)”

This assumes everyone is logical and rational. I just don’t believe that to be the case. There are people who are dumb/can’t figure out cause and effect

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avatar Investor Junkie

This explains why so many voted for Obama then :-)

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avatar Investor Junkie

Oh I agree not everyone is logical and rational. Not even all the time. This is also why traditional economic theories can fall flat on it’s face, and why I don’t believe in the market is efficient in the short term.

My issue is why does any of this become my or the collective problem of the “we”? Unless we believe that people don’t have free will. Otherwise we have what’s known as moral hazard. Someone else is going to take care of me and baby me, therefore I can go through life mindless.

Liberating yourself into understanding you do in fact have free will, and makes a lot of these type of issues moot and honestly the discussions seem silly.

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