Holiday season shouldn’t be manipulated

Retailers taking advantage of the frantic holiday season should reconsider strategies.

Keelia Moeller

These winter months have become some of our favorite days that many of us have come to call “the holidays.” We begin blasting our favorite holiday music, preparing our stomachs for a few feasts and remembering to give thanks for those we love.

However, over the past 50 years, a tradition has emerged and grown more popular: Black Friday. Since it began in the 1960s, it has developed into a day when stores sell the best brands at an affordable price, a day when we venture out to buy our friends and family the gifts they deserve.

Black Friday has its benefits, and it certainly pays off for those who wait in mile-long lines at 4 a.m. However, there are obvious (and dangerous) drawbacks to this doomsday of shopping.

The Philadelphia Police Department coined the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because shopping caused so much traffic congestion, many accidents and, on occasion, violence.

To this day, Black Friday lives up to its name. There have been seven deaths and 98 injuries on Black Fridays since 2006.

Just last year, there was a crowd of 2,000 outside Wal-Mart chanting in unison, “Push the doors in.” The workers began getting nervous and formed a human chain to slow down the shoppers. Their attempt failed, and Jdimytai Damour was killed by this uncontrollable stampede of shoppers. 

Despite incidents such as these, retailers don’t appreciate the negative connotations associated with Black Friday. Instead, they continually hype up their customers with earlier openings, bigger sales and longer lines.

Companies know the psychology of their customers — and they use this knowledge to maximize their sales.

“Get it before it’s gone.” Sound familiar? Retailers design phrases such as these to create a sense of scarcity among their customer bases. People are scared to miss out on an item that’s becoming a rarity — and when people deem an item rare, its overall psychological value goes up.

Retailers also play up their shoppers’ anticipation. Before Black Friday comes, constant advertisements and articles inform us of all of the great deals that will be available only for one day. This creates a buildup effect, which in turn leads to a cathartic release come shopping time.

The concept of competition is also a psychological factor that retailers keep in mind. After Black Friday, I often hear people comparing their own purchases to those of others and debating who saved the most money. Couponing, when paired with door-buster sales, maximizes our chances of saving more money than others. It’s human nature to want to outdo other people.

We need to tone down Black Friday. Retailers are creating overexcited mobs of competitors who are ready to fight to get the best deal. This isn’t safe and isn’t what the season should be about. Holiday shopping can be a positive thing, but manipulating the psychology of shoppers isn’t the right way to advertise.