By Jessica Kelso
Elm Staff Writer
Black Friday is a long-awaited American tradition directly following the Thanksgiving holiday, marking the beginning of the Christmas season.
However, the day was not always focused on holiday deals and sales. According to Sustainable Review, “Black Friday originated as a term to describe chaos and traffic in Philadelphia in the 1960s but later became associated with the start of the holiday shopping season.”
Over the past 50 years, Black Friday expanded from retail to blowout sales and consumer frenzy over the supposedly limited deals. The relentless obsession over marked-down products combined with the excitement of the coming Christmas holiday is enough to send the majority of American consumers into an all-out shopping war.
Yet many “Black Friday” sales last longer than just one day; many companies have even expanded to “Cyber Monday,” a day dedicated to online shopping, and week-long Christmas-themed sales.
According to NPR, companies begin their “Black Friday” sales well in advance of the holiday to encourage a higher degree of spending among customers.
“Longer sale windows give companies more time to go after the at least $957 billion [that] shoppers are expected to shell out in person and online this year,” according to the article.
For some, Black Friday deals are the source of their most expensive belongings and a chance to obtain the latest products at an affordable price. Especially with modern day economic inflation, sales and deals are potentially the only way for individuals to participate in the consumerist ways of America.
And while many look forward to these extreme sales, and companies certainly prepare to make high profits, the cost of such fast-paced spending is high.
NPR raises the question of whether or not there are still great deals to be had, or if it is all just a marketing ploy to get shoppers to buy more.
With the amount of this aforementioned consumerism pushed through large corporations, it is not unlikely that Black Friday allows companies to mark up products to an extreme degree, therefore making their “sales” appear more affordable.
The convenience of the unofficial holiday may benefit a percentage of the population that participates; however, do these benefits outweigh the environmental and ethical damage the day presents?
Sustainable Review notes that popular Black Friday retailers “prioritize low prices over fair labor practices and sustainability,” which can lead to significant amounts of product and material waste following the holiday.
According to Population Matters, “up to 80% of Black Friday purchases are thrown away.” And this does not account for the packaging and wrapping each product is contained in.
Another significant proponent of Black Friday waste is “fast fashion,” a term coined in the 1990s and used to refer to the cheap and immediate turnover of popular brands — originally clothing but recently expanded to all sale mediums.
While many praise the cheap prices and reliability of the latest fashions, many argue the economic and environmental consequences of these brands equate to more harm than good.
Popular online sites such as Shein, Temu, and Amazon fall under this umbrella of criticism as they are well-known for worker exploitation and an extreme source of environmental detriment.
According to The Guardian, Shein pushes out over 10,000 new products each day at low costs for the company, but “most returns end up in landfill because it costs more to put them back in circulation.”
This leads to overconsumption by individuals seeking fashionable trends without the costs of higher end brands.
However, some efforts are being made to combat the overconsumption of material goods. “Small-business Saturday,” a day to support local businesses rather than large corporations, has become a trend among younger generations.
Yet the consumerist issue of the Black Friday narrative remains as the hype surrounding the holidays grows.
According to Global News, “People will buy things on sale because they are afraid of missing the good deal. [But] it is good to remember that if you buy something that you don’t necessarily need or normally would not purchase, you can ask yourself if that is really a saving.”
The trend of “retail therapy” can be a tempting way of relieving stress and enjoying the rush of acquiring new things, but oftentimes these purchases end up in landfills rather than being put to use.
So what makes things worth buying? Ask yourself: do you love it? Will you use it? And is this purchase really necessary to your life? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, you might want to re-evaluate if the item in question is worth your hard-earned money.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo caption: Annual Black Friday sales swept through the United States last week.