What’s the real Cost of Black Friday?

Today’s post is a guest post by the  “up and coming” blogger Chris Fields. He was just named to the Top 13 Talent Management bloggers. Chris weighs in on the human costs of Black Friday. (For those of you who are not familiar with the U. S. phenomenon of the biggest shopping day of the year click on the link.)
Ah, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? I really do love the Holiday season. It’s the time of the year were people are more tolerant of each other. People are considerate of each other’s needs, lots of charitable gifts and volunteerism. It’s a great time…unless of course you have to work. It’s especially tough if you have to work in the retail or customer service.
Police, Firefighters and Doctors deal with some pretty crazy things over the holiday season. It’s a fact domestic violence gets elevated and the police are asked to mediate. Ambitious cooks or drunken cooks, tend to let the fires get a little too hot or experiment with that good ole deep fried turkey, thus putting our fire departments in the spotlight. And Doctors well, they have to handle the collateral damage from all of the above. My hat is off to those folks for being available to the public for mostly avoidable acts of stupidity. No easy task. But we’ve come to expect that by now, we actually take advantage of it to some extent. 
I’m adding to that list of employees who sacrifice the retail and customer service workers.  You ever work in customer service, ever? There is nothing worse than having to go into a customer service based job during the holiday season. Because undeniably there will be a customer who is suffering from seasonal depression or loneliness that decides to call in, or stop by and raise hell for the simple fact that they can. Don’t deny it, it happens, I’ve been there.
If you are thinking “Hey with 14 million people unemployed, they need to be happy they got a job.” Okay yeah, there’s that, but for once just imagine if you were a retail employee and had to work Thanksgiving Day. It used to be, you’d work early and your shift would end at 12 noon or by 2pm at the latest.  That’s not so bad. Then we started see a shift to stores staying open till 5-6pm and still that was manageable.
Consumer data has long shown that the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year.  But in the late 2000’s the opening times slowly began to creep forward; 6am to 5am to 4am and currently, retailers are opening at 10pm Thanksgiving night or even staying open.
My business side understands. You have to be competitive and profitable. One of the pillars of marketing is getting the product to the consumer first. It’s a marketing gold mine. But hey, the marketing department is at home eating turkey, watching football, and drinking some ice cold beverages.
BUT I’m in HUMAN resources, so I’m concerned about the human side of things.  There are a lot of employees in retail that do not want to work on Thanksgiving Day night. It’s not fair to them or their families. The stockers, cashiers, managers and supervisors have to cut their Holiday short so we can get a deal on a TV.
In the past 8 years or so, I’ve participated in a couple of Black Friday’s and here what I’ve learned.

  • I didn’t save a boat load of money. I found the same stuff for the same price or cheaper during reasonable store hours or online.
  • People can be nasty. Yeah for as much as I praised the good behaving citizens early, there are some real douche bags that will fight over material items.
  • People have died to buy Black Friday door busters. Ask Junior how that PlayStation is working out for him when he’s a teenager and his old man is dead.
  • People are going broke.  These deals turn Christmas into something that it shouldn’t be; a big commercialized materialistic opportunity to spend money we don’t have for things we don’t need.

By the time you read this post you would have probably already been out and took advantage of some giant Thanksgiving sale. I hope you weren’t hurt or robbed. I hope you got everything you wanted. And I hope you were nice to those employees working to make sure you got those items. Remember they had to be there, you didn’t.
Chris Fields, MLHR, currently blogging over on CostofWork.com. He can be reached on Twitter @new_resource and LinkedIn.

6 thoughts on “What’s the real Cost of Black Friday?”

  1. Great posts. I did my time in retail. BTW, talked to a family member this week who works in retail and she said she noticed that the prices were jacked up higher on most items on Thanksgiving night when her store was opened and had advertised extreme deals, and that the prices went slightly lower on Friday. Keep up the great writing.

  2. Hey I agree that you don’t really save that much money at the sales. I went to a black Friday sale and it was ridiculous!!!! There were even a couple of people that were fighting over video games and cameras. People just take these sales way too seriously I was locatated at the towels that were on sale, and boy was it crazy there were people literally diving into the box to get towels. People were pushing and even stealing towels out of my basket because they couldnt get there own. I was really pissed about that because I have to get in all that commotion for other people to get off easy. It seems to me that each year black Friday gets worse and worse.

  3. Good thoughtful post Chris. The irony of Business decision makers believing that these tactics are the way to go is that it is a false premise. The further down the bizarre path of setting up a scenario where people pepper spray other shoppers, damage merchandise, abuse staff, cause physical harm to others around them these business decision makers go the closer they come to turning off the customers that make their business sustainable. Is it really more profitable to have Walmart show up in negative Black Friday stories repeatedly both because they continue to set these situations in motion by playing to a rather odd consumer belief that the merchandise they are fighting to buy at a deal is only available via such a scenario?
    Are businesses creating sustainability and resilience by continuing down this path? Or are turning off the majority of consumers for short term gain?

    • Karin, that’s a great question. The numbers suggest more and more are taking advantage of Black Friday sales but when I talk to those that participated they seem to reflect the views of people like Tab (above comment). They say it was not worth it and they would not attend it again. There will always be those that can’t resist the urge to see what’s its all about or the thrill of a good deal. However, I’m all about Cyber Mondays 🙂 much safer.

  4. Yes, please! For the love of Pete, if you’re going out on Black Friday, please be kind to one another in line and in the aisles and to those who are working so you can rush the door for that “deal”. And be safe!
    Both my brother and mom left the family gathering early because they had to work. Not go home and sleep to get up early for Black Friday – No, they were going straight to work!! Black Friday started at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday – Thanksgiving Day! I understand business and the desire to earn a buck, but at what cost?
    The deals are not any better than other sales throughout the year, and one most certainly will not see me camped outside any store here in MN where one can get frostbite while in line.
    I’ll be on the couch with my blankie and fuzzy socks if you need me.

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