Why do we follow the Black Friday trend?

Since last week, every time I am browsing through internet, ads keep popping up to let me know that Black Friday is around the corner. This year, it seems that some stores and big companies won’t wait until the day following Thanksgiving, when the event it’s supposed to be celebrated since these big scale sales started in the United States. Black Friday is now a whole week of scandalous sales and crowed malls, where people waits hours before the doors open.

Many Americans used to see this date as the beginning of the holiday season, and the best moment to buy all the gifts for their families and friends. Then, companies were smart enough to see it as a business opportunity to encourage consumerism. Years after, Black Friday got to Europe.

It started with big discounts on clothes items and tech, but now it reached jewellery brands, bookstores, and even restaurants. People are ready to jump on those deals, and it’s expected that shoppers spend about £2.6bn, or £1.8m per minute, this year in the UK.

However, why are we participating in this? Some may say that it’s a great chance to go shopping and get everything we need before Christmas. It’s understandable because, look at all the deals! This could be a proper reason if this wasn’t often untrue.

During the past years, customers have complained about the misleading offers in many products, meaning that, actually, many items do not really have a discount or that the stores play with the offers tags to attract customers. “Now £250, before £700” may be in reality a £20 discount from £270. It is still a discount, but the reaction that they get from the customers is very different. Consumer organization Which? has “tracked the prices of 35 of the most popular products[…], and found that six in ten Black Friday ‘deals’ didn’t quiet add up”. This group also offers a couple of advices to avoid these situations: “look at the price, not the saving” and “do some research in advance” so you decide beforehand what to buy.

They are useful tips, but with this information in our hands, there isn’t space for the “it’s a great deal and once in a lifetime opportunity” thinking anymore. Maybe, avoiding this event completely would be the best option. That will definitely help us stay away from doing some impulsive purchases and buying things that we don’t really need, and fight the inevitable attraction that we feel towards that ‘80% discount’ sign.

In addition, we have to consider the waiting time, all the pushing, stampedes and the possible minors injuries –or big ones in some occasions- that we may suffer while trying to check if we are being deceived, at the same. Ask yourself, is being part of Black Friday events worthy?

Text for the University of Edinburgh

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