Ah, the great American tradition of Black Friday shopping. Leaving your boring home and family early to spend time with those who really matter: the herds of anxious strangers elbowing one another in the mouth to score that off-brand flatscreen. Truly, it's a noble American tradition. Just like Norman Rockwell envisioned it.
Just kidding. Black Friday is terrible. Between waking up at the crack of dawn to rush to the mall, dealing with the stampeding crowds, and maybe, just maybe, getting to take home one piece of electronics that you don’t really need, Black Friday can be a waste of time, money and energy.
That’s why we at OppLoans recommend that you and yours spend time with family and save your money. Here are the top six reasons why we recommend you avoid Black Friday.
1. It’s not a holiday.
The first “Black Friday” didn’t have anything to do with giving thanks. Quite the opposite. The first use of the term “Black Friday” referred to September 24, 1869–a particularly infamous day in financial history: A gold buying conspiracy unraveled and sent the stock market into a tailspin. Fun stuff.
Over the years, the story behind the retail tradition has evolved. There are some pleasant, but inaccurate, versions of the story involving the first day of the year in which a retailer finally turns a profit and some really dark versions involving slavery, shoplifting and near-riotous conditions at city retailers in Philadelphia.
Whichever Black Friday origin story you chose to believe, in its current form Black Friday is a modern marketing event designed to separate you from your money and your family.
2. It’s not great for the employees.
Black Friday used to start in the very morning hours of, well, Black Friday. But sometime around 2009, retailers began to open their doors earlier and earlier, and today, most Black “Friday” sales actually start around dinnertime on Thanksgiving Day. That means if you want to get the doorbuster deals listed on all those exciting Black Friday circulars, you’re going to have to skip out on your annual wine-fueled political fight with Uncle Joe and head right to the mall instead. But what about the employees? They get even less Uncle Joe time.
All kidding aside, the demands on employees’ time (not to mention the apocalyptic in-store conditions) aren’t anything to celebrate. And the public agrees! 63 percent of respondents to a Deloitte survey said they were against stores being open on Thanksgiving. Retailers are recognizing this; there are nearly 60 big box companies who won’t be open at all on Thanksgiving. Cheers, @PetSmart!
3. The “doorbusters” are a scam.
Those in-store-only doorbusters aren’t usually worth it. When it comes to electronics—the super-discounted items you’ll need to wait in a physical line to buy aren’t exactly top quality.
Often they’re from a little-known or no-name brand (called ‘Derivatives‘), which are hard to find solid customer reviews on—and on top of the quality issue, most stores will only have a limited amount in stock.
This means you can stand in line for hours and still come away empty-handed, which is a colossal waste of your time.
4. It’s irresponsible.
Phuong Vuong, of Empower Finance, gave us her opinion on Black Friday and we couldn’t agree more.
“Black Friday creates a herd mentality that encourages people to buy things that they don’t want or don’t even love that much because of the perceived scarcity of the deals. We’re not against deals because it is savings if you truly derive value from the purchase. We suggest a better way to do Black Friday is to cozy up at home with your loved ones and scour deals on editorial sites.”
While we’re at it, remember that avoiding Black Friday is one financially responsible action you can take this year, but don’t forget the rest of the calendar.
Phong adds, “Set a shopping budget for a month in our app and we will remind you every week or 2 weeks, how you are tracking against it, so you can course-correct. Our users love the tracker as a way to gradually over time learn about their shopping habits and the minimum required changes that need to be made.”
(For more personal finance apps that might bring you value, be sure to check out our OppLoans App Directory for reviews and developer interviews!)
5. It’s easy to get scammed online too.
Nick Johns of ConsumerSafety.org reminds us that whether you’re shopping online or in-store, Black Friday is ripe with scams, rip-offs, and spoofers looking to take advantage of shoppers. “Black Friday really does seem to get treated as its own holiday, and hype can certainly get out of control. With injuries or deaths reported almost every year, shopping in brick and mortar stores during peak deal hours can be a dangerous affair. Online shoppers may run into the lion’s share of scams, with digital trickery evolving every year.
Don’t shop on public WiFi (or better yet, stop using it altogether). These open networks are accessible by anyone, and as a result, any information you access can potentially be collected by someone else on the network. Reduce risk by using your phone as a private mobile hotspot or wait until you get home before transmitting any sensitive data.
Keep an eye on the news for new reports – criminals are inventing new forms of scams every day.”
6. You can shop smarter and just feel better.
Anxiety. Overspending. In-store injuries???
You just straight up don’t need this faux-holiday to save real money.
Let’s be honest. No matter what your financial situation, there are simply better, smarter, safer and more enjoyable ways to spend your time and money this holiday weekend. Skip the commercial nightmare and you’ll likely have much more to be thankful for–like money saved and more time with Uncle Joe (you know you love him).
Nick Johns brings years of experience informing consumers about technology trends and security risks to his role as Technology and Digital Safety Investigator for ConsumerSafety.org. An avid believer in proactive cybersecurity, Nick provides actionable advice about improving digital safety and protecting your most sensitive information.
Phuong Vuong leads Marketing and Growth at SF-based Empower Finance, a consumer finance app company that combines the most sophisticated technology with fiercely independent financial advice. She came from a rich financial services background that includes sales and business development and asset management. Phuong holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
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