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Black Friday and Other Pests

Do you know how to get the biggest savings on Black Friday? Just don’t buy anything.

Black Friday, like any other promotional strategy is aimed to bring more customers into the stores, not save you money. The promise of 50%+ discounts and “everything on sale” is still big enough to make  hoards of blue collar types actually go outside to real stores and shop (yes, with a shopping cart and everything), a few other more rational ones shop online like normal people. But how much data have you seen on actual pricing patterns for Black Friday weekend? Is it really the best time of the year to shop? Was that TV set really a good deal? I have seen mixed studies about this and it is safe to think that some items are sold at bottom prices but others are just barely better than the original retail price, so you might save a few dollars overall.

But aside from that big caveat, the most important question should be: do people really need all that stuff? Don’t you already have a couple of flat screens? I just can’t imagine a “sale” that would make me go out into crowded streets and shopping malls, waste my valuable time (which, by the way, should be factored into the prices you are paying) and have the outcome be anything remotely close to happiness. I would be willing to bet that whatever savings people get are more than offset by all the crap they buy and don’t need. This is almost impossible to measure, so I won’t really bet anything.

It’s ok to want a good deal and to save money, we all want that to some degree, but I just can’t stomach the feeling of being fooled with such a scheme. Believe me, I have felt that urge of “I need to buy this now, before it’s gone!”, and that’s how they want you to feel. But, seriously? What could possibly be so precious to cause you stress and take up so much of your attention? I decided to be immune to sales a while back. If I want something, I buy it, but I put more thought into the decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a capitalist and I care about a good environment for businesses to thrive, but I don’t think that the race to the bottom is the best strategy for all businesses, or for consumers. We have achieved such high levels of consumption and cheap goods thanks, in part, to the demise of other areas of our lives like the environment, human rights and sustainable development. Is it worth it?

Some companies have decided to deliberately ignore the made-up festivity, others have taken it to a new level by supporting a good cause. This year, Everlane used the profits from their Black Friday sales to give their Vietnam factory workers motorcycle helmets. Many of them use mopeds for transportation, but very few wear helmets. They accomplished their sales goal for that day to provide 8,000 helmets to their workers.

Just remember that nothing truly good is ever on sale. You’ll never see a [new] Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Balenciaga handbag on sale…. Why? They don’t have to do that to sell as many as they want. And if most retailers didn’t have to sell cheaper to push their less desirable products, they wouldn’t do it either. On the upside, some great things are always on sale: anything vintage, eBay, DIY’s, creativity and thrift shops.

I took these photos on my hike yesterday, that’s what I did instead of shopping. More than marginally better than shopping, if you ask me.

Black Friday Alternative

My Black Friday hike