The Black Friday problem
Many people look forward to Black Friday sales, and at first glance, why wouldn’t they?! A course of around a week, although it seems to gradually stretch longer and longer every year, where shops of all kinds are cutting the prices of their products, allowing you to get yourself something nice, or begin ticking names of your Christmas gift list.
But, there is a darker side to this ‘holiday’, if you can even call it that, and it is why we chose not to participate in it.
At its core, Black Friday is an event that celebrates and perpetuates rampant overconsumption. People buy things with no consideration of if they really need them, how long will they last, and the environmental and human cost of their spending.
And, as a shop that prides ourselves on promoting conscious shopping, ultimately, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all of its ever-emerging counterparts go against everything we stand for here at Forrist.
Sounds like we’re making too big of a fuss over some supermarket sales? Read on to see where we’re coming from, and find out why we’ve got a problem with Black Friday.
Where does Black Friday come from?
Dating back to the 1950s, stores coined the day after Thanksgiving ‘Black Friday’, where business would “go into the black” (meaning to make profit, as opposed to being “in the red”, where they are losing profit) after a big influx of post-Thanksgiving shopping for discounted goods. It soon became most businesses bookmark between Thanksgiving and Christmas, ushering in the commercial pandemonium of the gift giving season.
Since then, the Black Friday phenomenon has spread worldwide, becoming an annual event which corporations relish and retail workers dread. A day, which became a weekend, and now can span more than a week, dedicated to piling into shops and tackling other customers to get your hands on a TV or a vacuum cleaner that you don’t really need, at a discounted price. Each year, videos of shoppers in hysteria, tumbling over each other like some sort of WWE event reach our social media pages. That’s Black Friday mania for you.
Nowadays, online shopping is becoming the more dominant contributor in this carnival of consumerism, with the introduction of ‘Cyber Monday’ encouraging shoppers to hunt for bargains from the comfort of their home. And, although this does reduce the number of royal rumbles happening in your local Asda, Cyber Monday and Black Friday online sales come with their own, more widespread issues...
What’s so bad about Black Friday?
Now, you might be saying – “Okay, it can get a bit ridiculous, and some people take it too far, but all in all, what’s the harm in a couple days’ worth of discounted products?” In truth, quite a lot, and beneath those big 25% off labels is a marketing scheme built on unsustainable practice – and it’s goal is to encourage destructive consumerism in order to generate sales. Sounds pretty heavy, sure, but let’s break it down, and you’ll see for yourself:
The business model of a Black Friday sale is to bombard customers with “created wants”. Luxury items which you don’t really need are thrust in your face with a big, slashed price tag beside them, and all of a sudden become a crucial addition to your living room, wardrobe or, often, cupboard full of rubbish that you used one time and then never saw again.
This is paired with an intense sense of urgency that demands you click that buy button without hesitation. “This deal is only available for another hour and a half, and if you don’t buy now, someone else will get the last one!!!” – by adding this sort of pressure, customers are coaxed into making quick purchases without thinking things through, so as to not miss out on a great deal.
But in actuality, nine times out of ten you’re getting fleeced on Black Friday. A recent study uncovered that 99.5% of the deals available on Black Friday can be found for cheaper, or at least the same price, during other times of the year. The hype around Black Friday sales has become so ingrained in us as consumers that it is now being used to sell you a worse deal under the pretence that “It’s Black Friday, so it must be the best offer”.
A commercial stunt on the scale of Black Friday does damage to more than just the pocket of the consumer though. This strategy of filling your head with created wants and putting a ticking clock beside them breeds a culture of thoughtless overconsumption – and with that, comes a whole lot of waste.
Each year, people buy heaps of products, each individual item requiring a certain amount of material and energy to make. The average participant will spend £275 on Black Friday, amassing to £4.8 billion nationwide. But as we’ve discussed, the majority of the time, this money, and thereby materials, resources and energy, are going towards things which people don’t really need, all together making Black Friday one of the most wasteful days of the year.
And the items being bought are not typically designed with sustainability in mind, as a business that prides themselves on sustainability isn’t likely to partake in a Black Friday sale. Therefore, much of the products being sold won’t have the longest life-span and will eventually end up in landfill, oceans or incinerated.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As each year rolls on, and online shopping becomes the primary playing ground for Black Friday sales, more and more unsustainable packaging gets pumped out to rapidly wrap up the sudden influx of deliveries.
What’s more, the carbon footprint of these deliveries is huge. Last year, Black Friday deliveries in Britain alone were reported to have spewed 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. That’s about the same as 435 flights to New York from London.
And that brings us to the other side of Black Friday that many would like to ignore. When a marketing scheme of this magnitude sees so many people “winning”, there is always someone getting the short end of the stick. And if twitter clips of hysteric shoppers brawling it out over a discounted toaster wasn’t enough to convince you that the social consequences of this “holiday” are something to be seriously considered, then perhaps turning your attention to those in charge of making Black Friday happen will.
Consider the retailers who have to face the swarm caused by Black Friday discounts in the supermarket they work at. Consider those forced to work 12+ hour shifts working at companies like Amazon. Consider those who work in unethical conditions abroad, who are pushed further beyond their limits in order to meet the demand of Black Friday sales.
Your impulsive purchases don’t magically appear at your doorstep, someone has to do the dirty work, and with places like Royal Mail and Amazon hiring 20,000 temporary employees each just for this ‘holiday’, it’s no surprise that there is an awful lot of poorly-paid workers in harsh conditions being taken advantage of.
When it’s all laid out on the table, Black Friday is a commercial event which perpetuates harmful consumer practices and exploits both workers, and the environment, all for a profit incentive.
And that’s why we’ll have no parts in it. Conscious shopping is Forrist’s M.O. We believe that when we consume thoughtfully, with consideration for others and for our planet, we make the world a better place, and feel more fulfilled as a result.
Therefore, before you go looking for a new TV or pair of trainers on Black Friday, consider how you’re able to access such a ‘deal’, and whether or not you really need to go for it. We believe that by taking that moment to be conscious with your shopping, you are making the world a better place.