A lot of people here in Central New York have Black Friday marked on their calendars for holiday shopping. But one local economist says despite all the flashy ads, those great deals you’re counting on are not the focus of most stores.
Cutting short our thanksgiving or campaign out before dawn might not produce the windfall of savings most shoppers think. Cornell Professor of Applied Economics David Just has looked into the behavior of both the buyers on Black Friday…and the retailers. Shoppers can get in a frenzy that clouds good judgment.
“Everybody’s coming to the store. They believe everything’s going to be on a really steep discount. And because they’re already in that mindset, they may have to lure you in with one or two really great deals, but a lot of the other things really aren’t going to be discounted that much because they don’t have to in order to make you feel like you’re getting a good deal.”
Just contends the stores know that once you’re in the door for the special, only-at-that-hour sale item, you’re much more likely to buy on impulse – other stuff that’s not discounted at all. But Just doesn’t blame stores for trying to be sneaky.
“I don’t think they’re scheming for ‘how do we get people to buy things they don’t want or need, or to spend more than they have to,’ so much as, this is when they have to make their money. They’re not going to have the opportunity to have this many people walking through the doors of their store other times a year. They have to attract them in.”
If you go with a long shopping list, it actually might hurt in this case…where you feel a need to grab up a gift for every name. Still a plan – and some homework - can help.
“If you have specific items that you need to buy, at least you’re not going to be drawn into buying things that aren’t the right fit for who you’re buying for or not quite the right item. Even better, if you happen to go online beforehand to see what the normal price for something is, you know if you’re getting a good deal or not.”
Final Advice? Just says if you have big goals for Black Friday, some planning can help you save money…along with awareness of what the stores are really offering as a good deal.
RESEARCH SHOWS: MATERIAL THINGS MIGHT NOT BE BEST GIFTS
Black Friday Shopping is going to be part of many Central New Yorkers’ holiday plans. But research shows buying gifts such as technology or clothing or jewelry might not be the best path to happiness. A shift in thinking could satisfy both the gift giver and the receiver.
The image of all those wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree is a pretty strong one. Gifts are also central to other holiday traditions. And it’s no secret Black Friday preys on that notion. But are all the wrapped boxes with the baubles and surprises really what people want? Cornell Psychologist Tom Gilovich wonders if the frenzy over shopping for gifts has infringed on truly special experiences, such as thanksgiving family gatherings.
“We’ve taken something that research show provides people a great deal of well-being, a sense of connection to other people, being encroached upon by Black Friday starting really Thursday evening. So you’re taking something shown to provide a great deal of satisfaction and interrupted it with something that really doesn’t.”
Gilovich argues, that’s what the research shows…that personal experiences are more likely to make people content and produce longer term memories than things.
“The time and place for our material pursuits have just expanded and encroached upon on so many areas of life that we don’t even notice it. It’s analogous to how the use of our cell phone has intruded on other satisfying parts of life. There’s nothing wrong with a cell phone by gradually it intrudes on other things like family time, like conversation and so on.”
He says there’s a time and place for shopping and holiday gifts … but would like to see a better balance. That balance, he suggests, could be reflected in what people give as gifts.
“We do identify with our things; they reflect who we are, but even more so our experiences. People like to be seen in the seen in the gifts you give them, ‘oh, this person gets me’. If you get the person just the right experience the person seems heard and seen better and the gift is appreciated more..”
Gilovich adds money spent on meals out, theater experiences, or a vacation, is in the long run considered to be money better spent. Again, he agrees the anticipation of a gift…kids excitement about presents…is a good experience, but that enjoyment can be had without over –the-top consumption.
SHOPPERS SHOULD PAUSE AND THING OF WORKERS THIS BLACK FRIDAY
There are two sides to most stories…and Central New York’s Black Friday will include on one hand shoppers, but on the other hand workers.
If you work in a restaurant, bar or retail store, you know you’ll probably be serving customers, ringing up sales and restocking shelves on holidays. The silver lining could be a boost to the paycheck. Black Friday might be an opportunity for more hours…or to stretch that paycheck a little farther on holiday shopping. But Cornell Director of Labor Education Research Kate Bronfenbrenner cautions both sides of that proposition might come up a little empty
“On one hand, consumers seeing their wages stagnate for 30 years in a row, having to on their day off go in as early as possible because there are these sales that they feel are the only time they can afford to buy the goods they need for their families; and you have workers who are forced to work on holidays in the wee hours of the morning, or the entire holiday day and night.”
She notes many of those same workers have multiple jobs to make ends meet, costing more time and money to get to and from the various workplaces. She further finds inequities in the pay a lot of the workers that will be ringing up and wrapping your gifts get – even with their extra hours.
“So they’re not eligible for overtime or premium pay because they are technically part-time workers. So in fact, they work more hours than a fulltime worker works, but they’re not eligible for premium pay.”
She considers it a positive development that workers, unions and other have used Black Friday as a time to stand up for better pay and hours. In fact the Fight for 15 movement – seeking a 15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage -- has already used black Friday to focus on the issue. With protests planned at some Walmart and other retailers.