Today was my first Black Friday. And it’s only 4:30pm and already I’m disgusted with the whole idea.
Being a spoilt lil’ bitch growing up, searching for deals was never something I had to learn. So it was only after watching South Park’s Game of Thrones saga that I first really knew about Black Friday (and got interested in Game of Thrones, and have now read all the books). The Currys-PC World TV ads yesterday were the catalyst, though. I thought it would be fun. Instead, I’ve found that many deals are fakes.
When I first headed to the PC World, Amazon and Argos sites, I didn’t know what I was looking for. A tablet or new phone sounded most practical, so I thought I’d look for that. After a frantic five minutes of comparing 4 phones over 3 sites and researching whether Windows 8.1 Phone was as good as Android, I settled on the Nokia Lumia 530. It was supposed to be £80 and was now £50- pretty good, I thought. But just as I was about to hit ‘reserve’ (there was no home delivery option) I found that O2 are selling the same phone for £50- with next day home delivery. The Argos Black Friday deal isn’t a deal at all. And if you look at the small print under the product description, it says that the phone only retailed at the higher price for a few months until November 20th. Before that it’d been cheaper. So my saving would’ve been closer to £10 or £20 than £30. With travel to Argos, my saving might be as low as £2. When I realised there was no rush to buy the phone for £50 I lost interest. Why hurry to get a new phone when you can make an informed purchase? And if the phone is only worth £50, I might think about paying a little more for a better phone, or getting a better phone at a reduced price. I also realised that £30 is nothing. It’s degrading for me to be frantically tapping keys to save the cost of a night out (including dinner and a movie). When you see that you can save, it sounds like a lot more than it actually is. That got me thinking: how much does this Black Friday race against time (and other buyers) lead to impulse buys that we wouldn’t even want under ordinary circumstances?
Argos isn’t the only retailer artificially pushing up prices just to lower them for Black Friday. The Amazon Kindle Fire deals also carry small print which states that the price was previously lower, so you aren’t really saving $100. Its UK site’s XBox One deals are actually the same price as Xbox Ones in Sainsbury’s. And the deals on PC World’s site are often limited to expensive devices which are also less popular than the cheaper ones, such as top-range tablets which can’t really compete with the marketing of the much cheaper Kindle Fire. The stores are simply getting shot of overpriced, low demand stuff they can’t shift.
PC World advertises these deals as being almost free, but if you’re thinking that people on low wages or the unemployed will get a look in, think again. There are very few half-price items and even for those, you’ve still got to be prepared to part with £150 or £200- a bit pointless when there are many similar-spec devices available for similar prices to the Black Friday deals.
This is all especially sad seeing as there’s been violence over Black Friday deals, according to The Independent. The super-rich CEOs and board members must be laughing themselves silly as we fight over £20 savings- even £200 savings. If a lot of these deals are fakes, that means people are fighting and landing themselves with criminal records and community service over deals worth little or even nothing. (In fact, if I’d gone ahead with buying the phone from Argos, I’d be paying £9 more because of the cost of travel to the store). How many people have been injured and are now in a police cell over a fake deal? Even the psychological stress of tug-of-wars over laptops and appeals to store staff that another customer grabbed that phone you’d already reached for- would that have happened to me, if I’d been in the Argos store instead of online? And the stress of rushing to the shops or racing to get online fast enough.
But to get back to when I was growing up: What I wanted was a bike, a few years after I grew out of my horribly gendered little girl’s bike. I made one out of twigs and parcel tape, whittling with god knows what, because my mum said it was a criminal offence to carry a naked blade outside, and I was doing my project in the car park. I was about 10. I was to repeat this process in Technical class aged 15. Yep, despite my first love being skateboarding and being given a succession of boards which I broke by trying out increasingly extreme moves, as well as a scooter, I was hell-bent on getting that bike…until my mum suggested she buy me one when I was going on 16. I didn’t want one by then, so I said no.
That’s the thing, right there. When it was offered, I wasn’t bothered. Just like how when, at age 13, I got home from school one day and there was a Gameboy waiting for me, I was like “meh” because I hadn’t asked for one. It was stolen two years later and the following morning we went into town to get a new one- even though I hadn’t actually asked for a replacement and we weren’t even completely sure it was stolen yet. I was definitely unaware of my privelege at that age, and I’m very glad that I’m a little more aware now. Anyway, one day after school we all came out to find a toddler’s “gladiator” (two-footboard scooter) sitting on the playground. It just sat there, in its innocence, the sun glinting off its child-sized handlebars. It was obviously abandoned; trash that its owner hadn’t been considerate enough to dispose of properly. And we- teenagers- wanted it.
Yes, I’ll admit this was a rough school, and there were deprived families in its catchment areas. But a significant proportion of us had teen-toys, from PlayStations to micro-scooters. Yet, all eyes turned toward the TotBike. I went over to it, picked it up and got the hell out of there. Two people tried to grab it off me before I’d gone five hundred yards, and on the way home a couple more asked to “see it for a second”. I didn’t let go of it. They were 15 year old boys, and I was a 13 year old girl, so they didn’t resort to force. A few pupils assumed I’d stolen it, and were approving, because this was thought to be a good thing to steal. I was also stopped by a girl claiming it was her little cousin’s, but again I didn’t let go. I got the TotBike safely home. I spent days painting the thing red and black and glued stickers on it, before taking the pint-sized hotrod on its maiden drive down to the local park, where it was admired (micro-stuff was in). I may have named it Demon. Yes, I spent money pimping this abandoned, possibly stolen second-hand TotRide when I already had an adult-sized scooter and a skateboard, bought new.
What’s the point of this epic tale of how I brought Demon (or whatever I called it) safely home? Well, it’s an awful lot like Black Friday. Demon was someone’s trash, abandoned right where an army of angst-filled teens could wreck it. It wasn’t even valued enough to be sold or even given away. But because the demand was high, because stocks were limited, and because it was seen as a desirable commodity- trying to grab it was normalised. If we weren’t aware that lots of people were trying to get Black Friday deals, we might not care about getting them.
And in the stores, that’s why the fights break out. Once you’ve fought for something against all the odds, it’s yours. We are meant to keep what we kill. Defending an acquired item is an attitude common to most species. It’s in our DNA. That’s why I spent on, and valued, a TotBike I got for free- but didn’t revamp any of my skateboards. Because the fact I’d found it (or “hunted” it) and successfully carried it home (or, to my territory) and defended it from the force and trickery employed by others, meant it was mine. So we risk injury in our desperation for fake deals while the 1% earn even more. At worst, we get a criminal sentence, at best we save maybe £50.