Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, is the Friday after Thanksgiving. It sucks.
The term was first used by traffic-weary Philadelphia police officers in the early 1960s to describe the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush. However, a different explanation later arose as a way to associate Black Friday with something more positive. For the majority of the year, retailers generally operate at a financial loss, or “in the red.” Black Friday would be the point retailers begin to turn a profit, or operate “in the black.”
No matter where the name comes from, Black Friday currently goes hand-in-hand with mass consumerism as people eagerly line up outside of retailers in the hopes of partaking in deals. Technology is the main driver for most of these sales today, meaning the modern mainstream consumer is presented with the impulsive need to buy that ultra-cheap HDTV or video game console. Great, right?
Some people do see it as a wonderful time of year, since, in theory, they can just get all their holiday shopping done in one day. They might even like it to experience the rush of it all. I’m not one of those people. Let’s take a look at why that is.
1. Black Friday is the offspring of chaos and madness
A few years ago, I decided to give Black Friday a whirl and camped outside of Target for about an hour or two. When I first arrived, I felt my jaw hit the floor at seeing a line that stretched into the parking lot. Standing outside in the cold was, and still is, an unappealing proposition — but if you want those doorbuster deals, it’s your only option.
The doors finally opened, but not everyone could enter at once. Nudging and then pushing followed as everyone began rushing through the doors like a pack of zombies (the fast kind). It was terrible and only got worse as everyone pillaged the shelves inside. Around the country, thousands are injured on Black Friday, one of the only times common shopping devolves into violence and trampling every year.
Unless you live in the warm South, it will be a cold experience waiting for the store to open. And if you avoid that morning rush, there will still be a wide-enough swath of people to make things uncomfortable and possibly dangerous. Retail workers and managers dread this day like no other, so hostility should be expected if things get out of line.
Why deal with that when you can simply stay at home and relax?
2. Cyber Monday exists
Forget Friday. Wait for Monday. Black Friday is the day all the news outlets, from big to small, bring their camera crews out to visit the lines outside of stores and get “exclusive” first-hand accounts of the madness. Cyber Monday isn’t nearly as reported on.
If you’re unfamiliar with Cyber Monday, think of it as Black Friday for online shopping. Cyber Monday is the day retailers offer discounts, sometimes deep, for a large amount of their stock. Online shopping is preferred by many due to avoidance of lines and the general convenience of it all. On Cyber Monday, everything is available at the click of your mouse.
Admittedly, the line between Black Friday and Cyber Monday has blurred over the years as retailers extend their in-store and online deals for an entire week — or all month long — rather than just the two days. Even so, retailers have gotten in the habit of porting over in-store deals online, making it that much easier to get your shopping done.
Because of that, why would you deal with lines and people when you can just buy what you want from the comfort of your own home?
3. The deals might seem great, but don’t be fooled
On Black Friday, there are legitimately great deals, but there are also a lot of terrible deals. The case can be made for the occasional $15 stocking stuffer, but you have to keep in mind that many bargain-bin gizmos are cheap crap you should avoid. If you see a set of earphones for $5, for example, and the next one up is just $15 or $20 more, just spend the extra money.
A lot of bargain-bin gizmos are cheap crap you should avoid.
Even the big stuff can disappoint. Take, for example, those $200 or $300 45-inch HDTVs you’ll find on Black Friday. They seem like quite the deal but often miss key features, and some of these items are not built to last — even if they come from a reputable manufacturer.
There are exceptions to these rules, known as loss leaders: products sold for less than it cost the retailer to buy it. In other words, every sale of that product actually hurts the retailer. However, because of the Black Friday craze, retailers usually bank (and succeed) on making sure you buy other products that earn the shop big-time profits. While the simple solution might be to just buy the loss leader item and leave, that rarely happens.
4. There are deals year-round
For the consumer, Black Friday deals might seem like once a year things. Those who take the time to research are happy to tell you that such deals happen year-round, with even better deals usually going unnoticed.
Just a few months back, I purchased a 40-inch HDTV that came equipped with a surround sound system for $300. While the price is sure to give anyone pause, the TV is more than holding its own. “You get what you pay for” certainly applies here, as the screen and sound quality from the combo won’t shock anyone, but for my purposes, they’re more than adequate.
Deals like this happen just about every day, but for whatever reason, a lot of people don’t put in the time to find them. This past summer, I nabbed a refurbished Nexus 7 (2013) for just $140 on eBay from a reputable seller. Scouring the Internet for deals certainly takes time, but in the end, the deals you find make it worth your while.
5. Any excuse is a good excuse to avoid Black Friday
Any kind of excuse is a good one when it comes to not shopping on Black Friday.
Go ahead and watch every episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix, or the Gilmore Girls. I don’t care. Go ahead and 3D print that PokeBall you designed a week ago. Go visit that aunt who keeps calling you incessantly. Spend time with people you love. Anything you can do that’s truly enjoyable, just do it. Don’t worry about getting all your holiday shopping done on the most chaotic day of the year.
While true techies usually abide by these five reasons to avoid Black Friday, they can pertain to just about anyone. But if you’re someone who would rather get all the holiday shopping on one day and be done with it, Black Friday may be a good excuse to do it. If you absolutely must get the shopping done, at least check out our Black Friday master guide so you can make a plan for when you venture out.
Just don’t expect everyone to love those bargain bin gifts you pick up.
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