Tomorrow Black Friday dawns, and with it arrives the ridiculous annual consumer frenzy which makes the Boxing Day sales resemble a slightly busy church fete. According to the hype I should be pumped up and ready to go, with price comparison apps ready on my phone and elbows sharpened to shove my way through the crowds.
This year however, Which? has published authoritative research which suggests that Black Friday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The consumer organisation has monitored the prices of 94 products, including televisions, cameras and, yes, fitness trackers, promoted on Black Friday last year, for six months before and after the date. It found an overwhelming majority had been on sale for a cheaper price at other times of the year.
“The results of our investigation will disappoint many who are expecting nothing but bargains this Black Friday,” says Alex Neill, the campaign group’s managing director of home products. “While retailers are bombarding us with promises of great discounts and time-limited sales, it’s clear that not all deals are as good as they might appear.”
Well, knock me down in the rush to buy a microwave ‘slashed’ down to £50. I think that the more cynical amongst us suspected this all along. Black Friday is all one big marketing exercise designed to appeal to those suffering from a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out).
Give me a break. The event is yet another unwelcome American import, held the day after Thanksgiving, which neatly coincides with a month to go until Christmas. And, like commercialised Halloween and the garish Coca Cola trunk turning up in South Yorkshire last weekend to remind us that the ‘holidays are coming’, I wish it would turn tail and head back over the Atlantic.
My antipathy is quite straightforward. Talk about saving money? I don’t like Black Friday because it encourages the kind of conspicuous consumerism which can send people into serious debt. In the heat of the moment in Curry’s (other electrical superstores are available) and with rabid shoppers all around, it looks like an imperative idea to bag that discounted vacuum cleaner before someone else has it away.
What’s the point, however, if you already have two vacuum cleaners at home? Think of the environment for goodness sake. And what’s the consequence if you’re still paying for it this time next year, especially if it’s on credit? Retailers and consumers need a joint reality check.
The Government lectures us about taking on too much credit and credit referencing can make or break a mortgage. Yet temptation is everywhere. Earlier this week, I visited one well-known high-street store to buy a new office chair before the rush and the checkout assistant automatically asked me if I would like to put it on my store card.
I didn’t like her tone of presumption. I don’t hold such a card. In addition, I have no intention of ever having one because the interest rate is advertised at an eye-watering 29.9 per cent APR. I’d rather save up than sign up, thank you very much.
And then we wonder why so many people are driven to despair by the level of what they owe. The Office for National Statistics says that British households are now spending around £900 more on average each year than they receive in income, pushing overall household finances into deficit for the first time since the credit boom of the 1980s.
Also, Black Friday allows major retailers to dominate proceedings, leaving smaller independents high and dry. I know some people will say it’s just simple business economics. The high street – and the mall and the shopping centre for that matter – need all the help they can get.
As such, I’d rather spend weeks hunting down a good deal from a value-for-money concern than hand over my hard-earned cash to a massive conglomerate already awash with profits. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m also uncomfortable with the instant gratification Black Friday brings.
If you want it, just have it seems to be the idea. And don’t give a stuff for anyone you have to trample over to get it. There have been horrific scenes across the UK in recent years as shoppers have turned to physical violence to secure a certain must-have bargain. Which nine times out of 10, it isn’t.
I don’t want to put my life into my hands popping to the supermarket for a multi-pack of toilet rolls and some bread. And neither do I want to be coerced into buying stuff under false pretences. For this reason, I think I’ll find an excuse to stay at home tomorrow. And try not to think about Cyber Monday.