This last Sunday’s Brunch & Budget on Bondfire Radio show was on whether or not you’re really getting a good deal on Black Friday or if it’s a bunch of psychological tricks that corporations use to prey on people’s emotions and vulnerability to get them to spend more money (HINT: it’s the second one).
Tasty Keish of TK in the AM (+ amazing program director of Bondfire Radio!) was promoting the heck out of it and tagged me in a facebook conversation with one of her friends who asked why people shop on Black Friday. Below are a few of the comments and how I responded to them:
These flippant comments don’t make me angry, they scare me. Big corporations have designed Black Friday to bring out the worst in people and instead of blaming them for doing this to us, we are either attacking each other in the stores to “get the best deal” or we are attacking each other by calling the people who participate in Black Friday dumb, poor, and less than.
I’ve been on both sides of it. I myself have stood in line at 2am for a 5am store opening and dashed into the store, and I still remember my panic and delirium of running around the aisles and trying to find what I came for. When I checked out, I felt that momentary sense of victory, but the next day, I realized I was so unsatisfied by the whole experience that I said I would never do it again and I never have.
For a few years, I began to wear it like a badge of honor, a point of pride. I don’t participate in Black Friday and look at all those stupid, cold people waiting in line while I’m home in my warm bed. The stories and videos that came out justified my stance on it even more. Why would people subject themselves to this?
No amount of savings is worth putting yourself through this bullshit, right?
Then, one Black Friday a few years ago, I was having breakfast (it was too early to call it brunch) with one of my best friends from high school and she received a text from her friend in Oklahoma who was waiting in line for a big screen TV. I got back on my high horse and went into my whole thing about how ridiculous it was that people stood in line for this stuff, that nothing could be worth subjecting yourself to this. My friend then told me that this was the one day a year where her friend could even have a glimmer of a chance of owning a TV like this. A few hundred dollars savings for him was the difference between owning the TV and making rent and this was the one thing he wanted to own this year.
And that’s when I shut my big, privileged mouth.
People love to say, “I don’t participate in Black Friday,” in a way that implies that the people who do are practically savages. And why wouldn’t we think that? The headlines, the news reports, the youtube videos all back this up.
Here’s the thing though. Human nature is human nature. We’re all competitive, we all love to brag about getting a good deal, and we fucking love winning. When we are put in an environment that brings these tendencies out of us, a switch flips in our brains and all we can think about it getting what we came for, no matter what the cost.
Of COURSE this is what happens when a store marks something down 50%, but only puts out 5 of them for the 500 people waiting in line.
Of COURSE this is what happens when you tell people they have the chance, for one day only, to finally get the thing they’ve been wanting all year.
Of COURSE this is what happens when you create a false sense of scarcity, throw the prize into the ring, and see how it plays out.
The store still gets their sale, and better yet, on Black Friday, they make the evening news.
I’m disgusted by the corporations and media who have fabricated such a grotesque experiment in human emotions and desires. They are manipulating us and have done it so cleverly that they’ve made us dehumanize each other. You’re either someone in the way of the thing I want or some faceless idiot falling in line. And that’s how corporations want it, so you’re more focused on buying their stuff than taking care of another person.
So do I participate in Black Friday? No, I don’t. But not because I think everyone who does is an idiot, or a poor person trying to make themselves feel better. I also now understand that I am lucky to be in a position where I can wait until the next day, or pay a little more instead of having to catch the absolute best deal. And I have compassion for the people waiting in line.