Re: Black Friday

28 11 2008

I just finished reading this post on Exchange of Realities, by Ravyn. I’ve never before heard of such tradition, and believe me it was entertaining to be informed such. I believe that the reason why such practice is popular stems from a couple things you mentioned:

  • rarity of the occasion
  • spectacular offers
  • competition

Now bear in mind that these three do not have to be real in order to be effective. I remember a paper that I had read some years ago while I was doing Sociology at the University that made a province wide analysis at supermarkets and big store behaviours when it came to making really great offers. The results were fascinating…

First of all, the offers were very limited in scope: you had to buy this product in this particular quantity, and there were only these many in stock. Second, the payment had to be done in a particular way, cash, or maybe a certain credit card or certain number of installments. Third, the offers were a lot of times… not offers at all! A “50% OFF!” had been preceded by a 200% increase in price or a gift that came with a product had been preceded by increasing the price of the product (thus paying for the gift.) Fourth, the offers had very limited time frames. Thus maybe the offer was valid only this Thursday, or (like this Black Friday event) only for a few hours on a particular date. Finally, even if the offers were real and the timing was gentle enough the dynamics (and the geography) of supermarkets made it that they payed for themselves since most times you ended up buying things that were not being offered at reduced prices (and that, a lot of times, had price increases as well.)

That being said, people still rushed towards this apparently miracle offers with reckless abandon. Why? I believe the answer is a mixture of all the elements above. One the one hand there is a miraculous object (the offer, the sale) that appears at the reach of mere mortals for a brief momment (the rare occasion.) But not just everyone can place their hands on such dear price… oh no, only the brave and worthy who pressed on despite of the difficulties could obtain so dear a blessing! It was then, not only a competition amongst themselves, but also within themselves. Thus they were able to feel good, to feel better than (others) because they had the strenght and the wit that was needed to obtain the price.

Now, is the ‘insaneness’ of Black Friday really a deterrent for this brave souls? Nay! Tis the very thing that makes it so alluring in the first place. Even if the price is no price at all, how much money would you pay for the feeling? “I’m saving so much! I won’t let that supermarket people screw with me no more! Now I have more money to get [blank]!” Of course, as I’ve said, a lot of offers are indeed big deals (I’m not saying that everything is a ripoff per se) and this adds to this “feeling good” that I talked about.

Let’s go back to RPG characters (as suggested by our dear Ravyn.) Most likely (but not always), these are extraordinary people, and certainly they are simply more relevant (in a narrative way) that the common Joe/Jane. How could they let such a wonderous opportunity go? Wouldn’t actually be shameful, wouldn’t people laugh at their pretended might and their flaring courage if they would not lead the charge? Or maybe the people would feel resentful (“Bah, she thinks she’s too good to take advantage of the sales, does she?”) Maybe she fanatically see’s this Black Friday as an evil plot that drowns the town in a hecatomb of savagery and chaos…

So, my good people (and of course, Ravyn in particular.) I will ask once again, what can Black Friday do for you?

Fred.


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28 11 2008
Ravyn

Excellent piece, and thanks for the link!

I hadn’t quite taken into account the possibility of markups before the sale; the few deals I’ve seen (or at least the few I bothered to look at) actually were pretty decent improvements over the regular price. That, or excuses to get rid of stuff that wasn’t going to sell otherwise; you can never tell with these stores.

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