Year after year, Black Friday is touted as a sort of shopper’s Super Bowl. A sale no consumer dare miss. And sure enough, this year is no different. Every advertising channel – from newspapers to billboards to commercials – are hyping up what a killer savings opportunity November 26th will bring. But does Black Friday truly live up to its reputation? Read on – the answer may surprise you.
What excites Black Friday fanatics above all is the thought of saving big on popular merchandise. “50% off!”, the billboards promise. “Buy one, get one free!” the newspaper exclaims. However, a lower price doesn’t necessarily make something a great deal. In college economics courses, students learn about opportunity cost: the value of your next-best option. As it turns out, Black Friday involves many opportunity costs, some of which may erase any “deal” you think you’re getting.
One of these costs is early wake-ups. The typical Black Friday sale starts early in the morning – early as in 3 a.m., not 8 a.m.. Is standing outside in the freezing cold at 2 a.m. really worth $20 off a new cell phone? Maybe – but maybe not.
Another opportunity cost of Black Friday are the aggressive and often violent shoppers you are competing with. Every year, newspapers are flooded with stories about in-store fighting – usually when sale price items sell out (a common situation.) And it’s pretty easy to see why. The people who show up to Black Friday sales at 3 a.m. are the most hardcore, devoted deal-seekers in the community. They are the people who decided that waking up early, driving all over creation, standing outside for hours in the cold and literally fighting with other customers was worth the deals they were promised.
Thus, we see what went happened in this video (where shoppers dog-piled on top of one another for an Xbox) every single year. You may remember Black Friday 2006, when a frenzy over the PlayStation 3 console caused such a commotion that a local Walmart had to be shut down. Back in 2008, the New York Daily News reported on a Walmart employee being trampled to death by crazed shoppers.
Frustrated Store Employees
If you think retail employees are surly all year round, wait until you see them on Black Friday. Consider that you are shopping on what is unquestionably the most stressful, pressurized and chaotic day of the entire commercial year. All day long, employees are faced with demanding customers, forced to break up fights and worked to exhaustion by their managers.
Trying to get a straight answer from these people on Black Friday is a lot like visiting Town Hall on April 15 – in other words, a giant, headache-filled nightmare.
Yet another opportunity cost of Black Friday is fuel. True devotees of this shopping holiday don’t visit the local Walmart or Target, stock up on a few calculated purchases and call it a day. No – they will instead wring Black Friday for all it’s worth by visiting every store in town, and perhaps the surrounding towns as well.
Of course, those who genuinely love to shop may see gas as a small price to pay, but it does add up. The more fuel you burn in pursuit of a deal, the less of a deal it becomes. Because of this, a Black Friday spent trekking around the state could be (while perhaps still enjoyable) a complete wash as far as saving money goes.
Even the deals themselves are not always all they appear to be. On October 26, DealNews.com published a report debunking fifteen popular Black Friday myths. MSN cited it as well, calling Black Friday “highly overrated.” One big reason is that the supposedly unbeatable deals we all hear about do not always add up. According to DealNews:
“These days, more and more Black Friday deals are available online as well as in-store. Couple that with the fact that many Black Friday doorbusters are either matched or beaten later in the season, and you can only conclude that it’s not worth camping out for Black Friday specials. At most stores, being first in line to go in at 5 am only guarantees that you’ll get shoved around as the 500 people behind you are also let in.”
Retailers are also said to “often mix in their everyday prices with their steeper discounts, hoping that a shopper will bite on a high-profit item.”
The Answer: Cyber Monday
In many ways, Cyber Monday is the shopping event that actually delivers what Black Friday promises. In addition to good deals, there are few (if any) opportunity costs. Most or all ordering is done online, from the comfort of home, at any time of the day or night that is convenient. Shipping is often free or much less expensive than normal.
Best of all, it’s only two days after Black Friday. Since the Christmas holiday is a full month away anyway, why not skip the madness and shop on Cyber Monday instead? You’ll save more and work less.