Black Friday: A student’s bargain or holiday nightmare?

Deadline season has merged into the revision period, Christmas is coming, and we are all bracing ourselves for the holiday period – and how much we have to spend. In the last few weeks we have seen Thanksgiving in the United States, and with it came Black Friday and Cyber Monday (that has spread to Cyber Week). I don’t think I have ever looked at so many online clothes sales as I did during that week, with even my place of work asking me to research TV prices during Black Friday weekend, so they could replace the broken one for a cheap price.

The origin of Black Friday, according to HISTORY News, goes back to the financial crisis in 1869 where Jay Gould and Jim Fisk cheated Wall Street investors in the gold market until their conspiracy unravelled, sending the market into free fall and bankrupting horrific numbers of US citizens. With retailers having spent a year ‘in the red’, they earned a profit and ‘went into the black’ on the day after Thanksgiving, as holiday shoppers spent so much money on discounted merchandise.

Black Friday was once a financial saviour for retailers, but now it seems to be their annual sprint, with retailers competing to see who can cut the most prices, sell the highest quantity of products and barrage poor shoppers with emails, Facebook posts and texts. From the Monday of Thanksgiving week, my inbox was flooded by retailers who were already alerting me to the ‘unmissable’ offers I could catch and, at those prices, my student purse screamed with utter joy. It is a time that definitely allows shopping for a cheaper price, a dream for any student attempting to buy Christmas presents for family and friends, or just wanting to buy items that have been sitting on a wishlist for the last month.

Yet, despite my joy at the many bargains, any time I went near the online stores I was overwhelmed with the sheer number of items on sale. A sale is brilliant when buying for oneself, or for easily located items, but when one considers the motive behind Christmas presents and the constant reminder in John Lewis and Sainsbury’s Christmas adverts that you should give a gift that matters, the idea of just grabbing anything below a certain price range perhaps undermines that desire to give something meaningful.

Every website is asking you to ‘BUY!’ I spent too long scouring any site I liked in the hopes that I might find something, anything, that would appeal to me (and my bank account) because everything was under £30. The forceful method of selling seemed to go from extreme to aggressive lengths. It doesn’t take much to appeal to a customer when you are already cutting prices by 75 per cent, but the glaring letters and constant Facebook adverts just scream desperation.

Perhaps the root of this mass marketing is, in fact, the result of society’s consumerist nature, leaving an expectation for flash sales and cut prices during a holiday period. Our constant need for more requires these mass sales. Despite this, the over-eagerness of shops’ adverts to get attention and keep it seems almost crass.

Whether it is our own consumerism, or the forcefulness of the shops themselves to get rid of their stock (before the Boxing Day sales) and earn unthinkable amounts of money, the idea of thankfulness for what you have on Thanksgiving and the approaching tidings of comfort and joy seem very far away.

 

Image: Brian via Flickr

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