A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Black Friday: boom or bust

The season of giving, receiving, thanking and celebrating is upon us with Thanksgiving glee, Christmas and New Year’s Eve just around the corner. What people often look forward to, in hopes of preparing for the upcoming festivities, is Black Friday: a widespread ‘holiday’ celebrating the biggest discounts throughout all stores nationwide.

Today, it is clear Black Friday has gone much farther than simply waking up right before the stores open and unknowingly wandering into them without any agenda. It’s become something that requires more planning and scheming than most holiday celebrations. In hopes of getting the best deals, consumers tend to research weeks in advance to learn where the sales are and locate what items they are hoping to buy.

This intense preparation and strategizing isn’t necessarily imperative for such a day as Black Friday. In the grand scheme of things, the time and effort people put in isn’t worth the sales, which are often non existent in the first place. Some stores, of course not all, have sales that last pretty much year round and simply throw the clothes, that were already on sale, into the mix and still price them the same.

The label of discounts is what stores are promoting to consumers in hopes of sucking them into their extreme sales. But are these so-called ‘discounts’ that stores advocate really what they’re selling? Are the sales really worth getting up at 2 am (or, nowadays, in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner), camping out in the middle of the night, and pushing vigorously through the endless, aggressive crowds of people searching for the same deals you are?

It’s not.

Some places advertise store-wide 50% or 70% off deals, which makes them pretty unavoidable. These numbers are what draws consumers to their store in the first, only for them to find that the only thing they actually like or need isn’t included in the sale.

There’s also the store-wide “buy one, get one free” slogan. This seems great, but it most often will only account for a certain section of clothes, and it’s until we go up to the register that we realize the discount doesn’t apply to us.

At this point, it’s not worth it.

Of course there are those who do wake up early in the morning and camp out for hours outside a store. However, in order for this all to be valuable in the end, we have to know where the sales really are and how to avoid false advertising.

If you plan it right, Black Friday can bring some exceptional savings for something that would otherwise be unaffordable. But it requires certain strategies and restraint (do you really another pair of boots?) that allows shopping on Black Friday to be beneficial in the end.