This past weekend many of us took time off from our busy school lives to enjoy the holiday. For some the weekend was characterized by extended family, too much turkey and just the right amount of football. For others, the holiday of importance was Black Friday. Year after year, Thanksgiving evening leads directly into a free-for-all shopping frenzy. Customers wait at the front of stores well before the doors open, and when given the opportunity, stampede into the shops, at great risk to their physical wellbeing all in the name of great deals on quality merchandise.
Considering the ordeal that Black Friday shoppers are willing to put themselves through, it is certainly interesting to note that few of them truly invest time into research before their great shopping adventures. If they had, they would perhaps be surprised to learn that the deals that they were about to chase are generally not worth the effort.
According to J.D. Levite, an employee of the popular website The Wirecutter, which rates products, only approximately 0.6 percent of Black Friday deals can be categorized as “good” deals” (NYT). This analysis is based both on the product’s quality and price relative to the rest of the year. This sort of information is now more accessible than ever with price tracking services such as Camel Camel Camel, which allows users to track prices of products of interest on Amazon. Tracking prices on such services reveals that most products have some sort of predictable price cycle. The lowest points of these cycles seldom coincide with black Friday.
If the deals on Black Friday are not all that great then what is the reason behind the hype? According to a customer psychologist Kate Nightingale, the shopping frenzy speaks to a natural human instinct of competition (BBC). She suggests that the sales capitalize on a limited supply of popular items. Consumers who have been slow to grab their desired targets in the past are willing to push even harder to ensure that they achieve their goals this year. Nightingale equates the sales-free-for-all to an eBay auction where bidders tend to pay more then if a price was set. With the competition factor mixed into the shopping experience, shoppers are willing to pay for their desired item even when the sale does not turn out to be all they had hoped for.