Black Friday Bash

It is not surprising to see parking lots filled to capacity (or excess) on Black Friday. The prospect of incredible savings draws big crowds.

It is not surprising to see parking lots filled to capacity (or excess) on Black Friday. The prospect of incredible savings draws big crowds.

I like to say that while some people observe Good Friday, I observe Black Friday. I therefore consider it to be a personal affront when I hear mainstream media warn “Be careful, those crazy shoppers will be coming out in full force in less than a week!” Unfortunately, Americans who take advantage of sales on Black Friday have earned a reputation as being insane, stopping at nothing to snatch an item off the shelf before someone else gets the chance. While these people are the only ones portrayed in the news, there is also a minority of people like myself: educated consumers who remain calm and composed, all while efficiently hitting every shop that offers unbelievable deals. Both friends and family have even asked me to do their Black Friday bidding because they themselves are too scared to go. It is out of the goodness of my heart that I share with you my secrets and tricks of the trade here; however, should you use them against me if we happen to be in the same store, you will face my wrath. (Just kidding. Not really.)

Red is depicted as a negative value, such as in this graph.

Red is depicted as a negative value, such as in this graph.

Black Friday, though not an official holiday, falls out every year without fail the day after Thanksgiving. Its name may have originated from two possible sources: 1. “Black” described the heavy traffic flow on this day in Philadelphia many years back 2. “Black” describes the profit that businesses earn on this day (‘In the red’ means negative, or making a loss.) Whatever the case may be, this day has proven to be critical to the success of businesses, many of which depend on the increased revenue they generate on that day to cover any losses they incurred throughout the calendar year.

I will not be worrying about how businesses benefit here. I like to view Black Friday as the opportunity for the educated consumer to make killer deals. You have to be careful to go to the right stores in order to get the best deals. For example, electronics can be found for dirt-cheap in places other than Best Buy, such as in Target, Walmart, or Amazon. For clothing, however, Target is not the best place to go. Instead, check out stores that focus on selling clothing in particular, such as Lord and Taylor and the Gap. While these stores might have a reputation for being pricy, they actually provide incredible sales on Black Friday. Garments that you like but could not buy because of the hefty price tag are suddenly affordable, sometimes even dirt-cheap. There is a specific method to catching these lucrative deals.

Coming with a prepared list of where you want to go (and , ideally what you want to get) is the only semblance of organization you will experience on day associated with extreme chaos.

Coming with a prepared list of where you want to go (and , ideally what you want to get) is the only semblance of organization you will experience on a day associated with extreme chaos.

It is easy to get overwhelmed on Black Friday. There are so many deals; where do you go even start?  For those of you who get easily distracted, a list of exactly where you will go will help you to stay on track, as well as help you maintain your sanity. Besides for a list, you should take a coupon with you, if possible. That way, you can increase your savings by even more than is advertised. The coupons are either more valuable than usual (25% on everything, not only on select merchandise) or have a set dollar amount off. For example, I got my hands on a $20 off $40 or more for Lord and Taylor. I am excited to use this voucher, and even more enthused at the additional savings I will accrue by my 20% off coupon at the same time. Savings galore! However, you must be cautious about when you use them. Many stores offer unbelievable discounts or validate their coupons during a small time frame. You therefore have to use your time wisely so as to scoop up all the good deals before they expire. Time is your enemy on Black Friday.

Black Friday can be characterized by sheer mayhem. When else will you find a grandma sprinting across the store amidst a huge crowd?

Black Friday is be characterized by sheer mayhem. Even a grandma can pose as your greatest threat in getting that heavily discounted item off of the shelf. And no one likes to fight Grandma.

Another enemy you will encounter on Black Friday are fellow shoppers. All of you have the same mission in mind: saving money. Some people might also be seeking out the same items as you. Be cautious of all shoppers, as you never know from a cursory glance what type of shopper s/he is. They can be either civil and considerate, or shamelessly hostile, taking no prisoners. There are a few tips that will allow you to come out unscathed. First, wear close-toed, comfortable shoes. You share the same goal as the nurses in hospitals who also wear such footwear: to be protected from heavy objects (in our case, trampling feet) and to make the hours spent on your feet seem more bearable. Secondly, the younger you look, the better. I have noticed that customers are nicer to me when I wear a messy bun and am sans makeup than when I look put together. (I think this might be because they feel somewhat guilty when shoving someone who looks 15 than doing so to a 25 year old. For Black Friday shoppers, it is an unfortunate reality that dignity is entirely irrelevant.

Lately people have chosen to do their shopping online, instead of facing the unpredictable customers who will stop at nothing for a  good deal. I repeat, Nothing.

Lately, people have chosen to do their shopping online, instead of facing the unpredictable customers who will stop at nothing for a good deal. I repeat, Nothing.

The hysteria of shoppers reflects the highly capitalistic nature of Black Friday that has evolved over time. With the widespread use of the Internet and its strong influence, businesses have expanded their deals technologically. Often, more sales are offered on company websites than in stores. This is likely the case in order to attract people  too scared to face the stores or the impossible parking. Online transactions also serve to thin the crows (by how much, I am unsure), making it easier for store employees to man cash registers. In addition to online deals on Black Friday proper, retailers have created what is now called “Cyber Monday”. For those individuals who missed out on Black Friday deals, they have a chance to catch some last minute online. The boon to Cyber Monday is that these deals are only available online-physical stores do not extend Black Friday deals through Monday.

You probably think that I would be over the moon if Black Friday would be expanded, to take place 24/7. While I love Black Friday, and the fact that deals are now available online both the day of and the following Monday, there is one aspect to its evolution that I abhor. Lately, stores such as Walmart have begun extending the sales for customers by opening the stores late Thursday night. I love a good deal, but I have no tolerance for such ungratefulness toward employees. These workers have to work ungodly hours on Black Friday because stores open as early as 5 am to accommodate as many customers as possible. Who are we to then dip into their vacation day to force them to work even more? I don’t care if they get paid “time and a half”-they should get paid triple. The message of Thanksgiving, that of appreciating everything you have and what others do for you, clearly goes over everyone’s heads. While I could potentially make some killer deals by going shopping on Thursday night, I refuse to do so on moral grounds. I am convinced that I find incredible steals regardless, due to Karma.

Some people have an explicable rush when buying something at a heavily reduced price. If you are one of those, don't worry: you are in good company.

Some people have an inexplicable rush when buying something at a heavily reduced price. If you are one of those, don’t worry: you are in good company.

I highly recommend you go out shopping on Black Friday, taking into account the advice I gave you, but please, do not go shopping on Thursday. Stay at home with your friends and family and appreciate what you have. This may sound bizarre in an economic/financial blog, because normally everything has to do with self-interest. When it comes to shopping on Thanksgiving itself, I am steadfast in my beliefs that it is wrong. However, feel free to ask me any questions you have about shopping on Black Friday, as well as the great deals you get (I genuinely get vicariously excited)!

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Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 12:25 am Comments (0)
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