The parking lots of malls everywhere are flooded. People are running, trampling and grabbing items to ensure that they will be the first to snatch the greatest sales. Ironically, Black Friday, a day in which stores and retailers everywhere convince their customers that they need to purchase different items at a prime price, follows the day of Thanksgiving, in which these same consumers have celebrated with friends and family, claiming to be thankful and satisfied with all they have.
The scandalizing stories and rebuking tones that have described this infamous day in retail are numerous and well known. People have been put into debt, injured or even killed by a day that purports to be nothing but benevolent. But erase the image of your reproachful grandparent or local Orthodox rabbi condemning the day in your head for just a moment. When we set these very real concerns aside, the question still remains: Are the prices all that unbelievable?
As someone who enjoys shopping, but also appreciates finding the great deals, I have often pondered the nature of this day. Whenever I come home with a purchase and tell my father that I saved money, he is quick to shoot down this suggestion. He always reminds me that I am not saving money when I buy clothing that is on sale. Rather, if I had not purchased this clothing, I would have had more money in the bank. The idea that Black Friday is the customer-savvy move implies that the desire for these purchases would have been as great without the “Sale” sign in the window.
However, if your purchases really are warranted, are you guaranteed to be snagging the sales of a lifetime? The quick answer is: not necessarily. For one thing, the sales start before Friday and continue long after. I am sure that many people can attest to the massive influx of emails from retailers that begin flooding their inbox days before Thanksgiving and do not end until at least a week later. After Black Friday, the countdown begins to Cyber Monday. But wait: Just when you thought that Cyber Monday was over and you could check your email without spinning into retail shopper-induced panic, the sales continue. The companies notify you that they are extending their Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals and you are the extremely fortunate customer who gets to come late to the party but still eat a slice of the cake. So for all the hype about that specific day itself, it seems that the emphasis on Black Friday is certainly extreme. These deals will be popping up and remaining throughout a two-week period.
But let us assume that you miss this short two-week window. Are you missing the prices of a lifetime? I have noticed that if you wait a month after this sale period the sales only go up. Admittedly, you may want to purchase a sweater and other winter clothing before January. However, the psychologically deceptive nature of the sales still remains. Even if someone has enough sweaters to last them until January, somehow it still seems ridiculous to pass up those potential Black Friday bargains.
After trying all the different combinations of shopping at this time of year I have come to a well-researched conclusion. Certainly it is not wise to go overboard and imagine that these sales will never come again. However, the Cyber Monday road, for those who are able to shop without seeing their clothing in person, seems like the path to choose. From the convenience of your own home you can take advantage of some pretty good deals. Just do not fall prey to the massive amount of advertising, poking and prodding that the retailers send your way.
This year I set my sights on something other than clothing. Having heard of the great flight and hotel deals that emerge on Cyber Monday and the day after, which is now coined “Travel Tuesday,” I decided to take advantage of these days and plan my January vacation. In the end, I am spending a week in Florida with friends in a couple of nice hotels and renting a car for a total of around $400. Despite my father’s cynicism, these are deals of which I am proud.
If you have not already realized it, however, the day itself is not necessarily as overwhelmingly amazing as it is advertised to be. So if you did not take advantage of this year’s Black Friday sales, do not fret. You saved a lot more money by keeping your credit card safely in your wallet.
By Mairav Linzer
Mairav Linzer is currently a senior at Stern College for Women. After interning for the Jewish Link this summer, she has continued as a contributor.