The Black Friday weekend is upon us once again. Over the next few days, stores will promote ludicrous price cuts and share bargain deals across a range of much-wanted (though maybe not needed) products. In just one weekend, shoppers are expected to spend on average $430, enjoying discounts of up to 80%.
We spend a lot of time talking about the negative impact of Black Friday and the overconsumption that it causes. It comes as no surprise to anyone that this weekend is an environmental menace, emits countless tonnes of CO2e and produces more waste than we know what to do with, but there’s a lot more to know when it comes to this ‘trendy’ consumer holiday.
Here are eight facts you might not know about this day of wild overconsumption.
In the distant year of 1869, when the phrase was initially coined in the United States, "Black Friday" denoted a somber occasion marked by a significant decline in gold prices.
This downturn in gold prices occurred due to the scheming actions of two unscrupulous investors, who attempted to monopolise the gold market by amassing substantial quantities of this precious metal, thereby creating artificial scarcity. As the value of gold soared, numerous other investors eagerly followed suit, hoping to reap substantial profits from the escalating prices.
In response to this frenzied speculation, the government intervened decisively by saturating the market with an influx of gold. This sudden influx caused gold prices to plummet, leaving the speculators financially ruined, and triggering a notable downturn in the stock market.
The modern iteration has its roots in 1950s Philadelphia.
Following Thanksgiving, retailers in the city would hold huge sales to capitalise on the large crowds ahead of the Army/Navy football game on Saturday.
The vast crowds caused havoc for police and forced them to work harsh, extra-long shifts, resulting in them dubbing the day Black Friday, both to express their dislike of the day and to try and reduce visitors by making it sound less appealing.
It used to be a tradition in the US for the President to declare a “day of thanksgiving” on the last Thursday in November.
In 1939, the last Thursday of November happened to be the month's final day. This worried retailers as they thought their profits would suffer from a shortened holiday shopping season. They petitioned President Roosevelt to move the holiday one week earlier – which he duly did, and it has stuck ever since.
One of the most surprising outcomes of Black Friday is the surge in calls for plumbers, who have coined this day as Brown Friday instead.
Research has found that plumbers receive up to 50% more calls the day after Thanksgiving than they do on any other Friday. The culprit of these calls? Blocked kitchen sinks and garbage disposals due to the incorrect disposal of food waste.
Unfortunately, the frenzy associated with Black Friday shopping frequently spills over into the chaos of parking lots.
In 2015, the auto insurance company Progressive conducted an analysis of its accident claims. They discovered that the number of crashes tends to increase around Thanksgiving. Specifically, they found that accidents are 34% more frequent on Black Friday when compared to other days in November.
A significant portion of these accidents occurs within parking lots and often involves mishaps during backing-out and parking maneuvers.
An astonishing 12% of shoppers in the US admit to being drunk while shopping on Black Friday, according to coupon site RetailMeNot, and that’s just the ones who admit it.
In a particular year, the creators of the popular party game Cards Against Humanity decided to partake in the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
Their approach was unconventional: they promoted an offer where customers could pay $5 on Black Friday, and in return, they would receive absolutely nothing. All the usual items for sale on the game's website were temporarily removed, replaced by a single payment option that allowed people to simply contribute $5 to the company without receiving any product or service in exchange.
Surprisingly, more than 14,000 customers embraced this peculiar offer, resulting in the company generating a substantial sum of $71,145.
During Thanksgiving weekend, Americans dedicate a greater amount of time to shopping in one day than they do to visiting popular Disney destinations over the entire year.
Walmart, for instance, proudly claims that during the previous year, it drew in a staggering crowd of over 22 million individuals to its stores on Thanksgiving Day alone. To put this in perspective, this figure surpasses the annual visitor count of 18.5 million at Disneyworld in Florida and even outpaces the 16 million visitors to Disneyland in California.
From its humble origins to its global impact, this shopping phenomenon has evolved in ways few could have predicted, from the relationship between retailers and consumers to the psychology behind the frenzy.
Like it or loathe it Black Friday is undoubtedly the biggest shopping day of the year and gives a fascinating (and slightly terrifying) look at how a single event can have so much influence on our day to day lives.