Shoppers go crazy for Black Friday deals. Last year, a casual $7.9 billion was spent with an additional $6.59 billion on Cyber Monday. It won’t be a surprise to know that one retailer consistently bags the majority of the sales. Drum roll please! Yes that’s right, it’s Amazon, accounting for 60%.
Although sales are expected to grow once again this year, online sales are set to increase at a much slower pace; a mere 4%. Is it a sign that the thrills of Black Friday are wearing thin? Does it mean that shoppers are seeing through the price slashes, mad crowds and blind consumerism? Black Friday certainly isn’t a fairy tale sale. Here we take a look at the dark side of the spending frenzy.
The Dodgy Deals
Consumer group Which? has revealed that nearly 9 in 10 “deals” available in 2017 had been even cheaper at other times. They tracked the prices of 94 popular products, including TVs, cameras and fitness trackers, on offer from six months before until six months afterward Christmas. It found 87% of the items were cheaper at other times of year and nearly half were cheaper in the six months after Black Friday. Which? analysed deals at leading retailers Currys PC World, Amazon, John Lewis and Argos. It found a 60-inch 4K LG TV, advertised at £799 by Amazon on Black Friday, was £50 cheaper on at least 62 occasions after Black Friday and dropped a further £150 for at least four days at the end of December and beginning of January.
The Overworked Workers
A recent interview by an ex-warehouse Amazon manager given to Vox also outlines the human cost we pay to have the gifts we want delivered across the country for free, next day and at discount. He explains how for the 5 week period between Black Friday and Christmas, everyone works six days a week. Managers work 14 – 18 hour days on their feet without a break. Associates would work 10 hour days and while they do get breaks, they are strictly monitored. There would be a ‘scanned’ time of 15 minutes for emergencies and if staff missed the deadline, they would be warned, then fired. The long hours are mandatory overtime and you are not allowed to take any holiday during that time. He described the environment as a pressure cooker where managers are trained to observe those with a slower packing rate and fire them if they don’t make the numbers.
The Crazed Customers
In some instances, Black Friday has become a setting for consumer misbehavior as shoppers compete for discounted products. Fighting, pepper-spraying, dumping merchandise, ransacking stores, robberies and shootings have all been reported on Black Friday. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has even issued guidelines to retailers about how to avoid injuries and deaths. In the U.S., the most shocking example of misbehavior occurred in 2008 when a Walmart worker was trampled and killed as shoppers rushed to enter the store.