Capitalism Kills: Black Friday Traditions Need to Change

(https://foundationdigital.com/black-friday-kill-count/)

Staff Writer: Roxanne Hepburn

Email: rhepburn@umassd.edu

The tradition of stores opening at midnight after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday (BF), needs to die – one person is killed, and nine people are injured on BF in the United States each year, according to thehustle.co. Stores should open around three hours early or preferably not alter their hours for BF at all. Employees are overworked and underpaid each year; most employers do not even provide holiday pay (time and half) for BF workers to compensate for the hassles of working through the chaos. The continued prevalence of COVID-19 and its staff shortages have only increased service industry workers negatively affected by this “holiday” sense of urgency for change.

The excitement and adrenaline associated with BF shopping only draw customers’ worst (and most dangerous) behaviors out, putting retail workers at risk. Sam Shuman, the manager at Journeys at the North Dartmouth Mall, discussed his past experiences with BF: “I’ve worked five BFs in my career, and I’ve worked three as management. On BF, customers are split between people who are very direct/know what they’re looking for, and then people who are there to simply join in the madness and look around.” Generally, those looking for holiday madness do not end up buying anything and are only there to make the lives of the retail workers harder. Sam highlighted that on BF, “most shoppers are on a mission for specific product or deals and won’t take any less.” When faced with “no” most customers will move onto the next store in search of the next deal; however, there will always be the sour apple in the bunch that has to cause a scene if they do not get the product they want for the price they want it at.

Cyber Monday’s (CM) growing popularity will fill the gap that reducing BF hours would create for retailers’ sales. The study, “Understanding Consumer Intentions on Two Major Shopping Days,” published by the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, discusses the results on their analysis of shopping trends during BF and CM: “Consumers found Cyber Monday much more convenient than Black Friday, which coincides with other research that has found online shopping more convenient than store shopping. [. . .] Although respondents found more enjoyment in shopping at the mall, the intention to shop online on Cyber Monday was far greater than the intention to shop at the mall on Black Friday.” While customers receive positive psychological effects from shopping in person on BF, they are much more likely to spend money on CM while sitting in their bed at home relaxing or messing around on their computer at work. As COVID-19 has altered how people shop and interact with the public daily, the pandemic has set up the perfect storm for retailers to transition into focusing on online CM deals rather than BF in-person sales. 

Retailers could be contributing to BF chaos due to poor preparation and management; if companies take steps to mitigate dangers, BF could carry on unaltered. The study “Consumer Emotions on Black Friday: Antecedents and Consequence,” published by The Journal of Research for Consumers, provides steps retailers could take to manage excited crowds of customers properly: “Retailers need to keep in mind that excitement and anticipation evoked by media hype can result in adverse outcomes when managed poorly (e.g., stockouts, wait in line). [. . .] Promotion of BF deals need to provide prospective BF shoppers with accurate and clear information about restrictions.” If employers can better take control of BF by mitigating the factors that contribute to destructive customer behavior through comprehensive policies such as clearly laid out deals, proper staffing, and abundant stock, then service industry workers would be able to carry on working the midnight openings each year.

The dangerous situations that service industry workers experience each year on BF need to end, whether through stopping BF holiday hours or improved retailer policies and management.

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