I have an unhealthy relationship with Black Friday


Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: CNBC

I’ve never loved and hated something so equally in my life as Black Friday. I am so internally conflicted about my feelings that existential dread already set in during the first week of November. Black Friday is magical, it is unethical; it’s a great value, but horrible for the environment; it’s a way to plan financially, but also extremely predatory. 

I should start off by saying that I have gone out Black Friday shopping in some capacity every year since I was 13 years old, with the exception of 2020, as I was not risking my life for a $10 copy of “Speed” on Blu-Ray… although maybe it would have been worth it…  I digress. I was raised as a deal hunter — I clip coupons, I follow Amazon wishlists, I have Twitter notifications turned on and get dozens of messages a day letting me know when anything from a Bowflex, to a Nintendo Switch OLED, to a subscribe-and-save pack of Double Stuf Oreos goes on sale. Naturally, this means Black Friday was always a big deal for me.

Around three or four years ago, though, I realized that I was spending money for the sake of spending money, rather than for the sake of getting products I actually needed or wanted. Sure, I’ve used that mood lamp shaped like a gemstone a few times, but did I really need to buy it just because it was at a Black Friday sale? I started to get buyers remorse even on good purchases like a mechanical keyboard for $100 off or Senheiser headphones that I use every day that I got for 50 percent off. For the last two years, I saw REI’s #OptOutside campaign trending on Twitter, and actually felt pretty inspired to spend some time outside with friends and family, but that didn’t stop me from checking my phone to see what I wanted to buy online.

Beyond my personal conflict with spending too much money, though, I also started to realize how draining Black Friday is for retail workers after working two myself in a retail position. Stores stay open to please mobs of deal hunters like myself, and workers miss out on time with their family around the Thanksgiving holiday. I always found consonance knowing that it was a choice they made, but in some cases it really isn’t a matter of choice. Beyond this, companies have begun opening their doors Thursday night, even pushing into Thursday morning in some cases, which plants that seed in people’s head that they are missing out on savings by spending time with their family. It feels wrong.

Now, the whole structure has fallen under its own weight, with some companies starting their deals as early as this week, and some lasting until after the holiday season itself. What’s worse is that as Black Friday participation has gone down, organizations are encouraged to compete using increasingly shady and predatory methods in order to hold on to what was once the biggest retail shopping day of the year. Most doorbuster deals are the same ones offered year round, especially on big ticket items like TVs, game consoles and appliances. They are literally the same deals that are offered every few months, but they are presented as once-a-year opportunities that can’t be passed up. Even more egregious than that, many products are driven up in price prior to Black Friday and then are put on discount to equal the actual MSRP, but are presented as a good deal. 
I don’t know. I’m sure I will still fall into some purchases this year, but I am going to try to stay out of the stores. I want to avoid COVID firstly, but it’s also a small way that I can protest the unethical practices big stores have been taking. I wasn’t writing this piece to corral the Collegian community into hating stores and boycotting Black Friday, but hopefully to find some others who are in a similar situation as me. Feel free to reply in the comments or reach out to me at my email with your thoughts on Black Friday and what we might be able to do as a society to move past it or improve it.