Sustainability and social behaviour are things that people should consider in Black Friday shopping, say experts.
Retailers in both the U.S. and Canada will hold sales Friday (Nov. 26) and Amy Hanser, UBC department of sociology associate professor, said a big part of Black Friday is marketers trying to convince consumers to buy. It can also lead to inappropriate behaviour, like fighting and rushes of mobs.
“Some people see it as an expression of the individualistic anti-social attitudes that consumerism cultivates,” said Hanser. “I think sometimes it’s the context, it gets revved up and I think there’s only so much at a certain price and it makes people feel like they’re going to miss out. We’ve seen this actually in the context of the gas restrictions in B.C. Some people rush to get as much as they can.
“In some ways I feel like it’s not a behaviour that’s specific to Black Friday, but [it] gets organized in a way that makes some people feel like they have to fight to get their share. There’s a feeling of scarcity that underlies the desperation that some people approach Black Friday with.”
Kai Chan, a professor with UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, said people will need to buy things, but should consider need.
“There’s no harm in buying it on Black Friday, despite the fact that some [non-governmental organizations] have labelled it ‘Buy Nothing Day’ and I hope that people don’t get wrought in guilt by thinking that they’re bad people if they buy those things that they need on Black Friday,” said Chan. “There’s no harm in that. Take advantage of the sales when they’re available.
“The key is [ask yourself],’Is this going to be something that I will use for a long time?’ Or is it going to be something they use for a couple of months and likely don’t use again and it’s going to sit around and clutter my house?’”
Consumers should be mindful of sustainability when heading to stores, said Juan Jose Alava, a research associate and principal investigator with the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries Faculty of Science at UBC.
Alava pointed to the clothing industry, which is responsible for “emitting microfibers from synthetic textiles such as nylon and polyester into the marine coastal areas and oceans,” and the electronics industry, “which generates plastic waste from electric and electronic equipment, or e-waste,” he said.
Still, the thrill of the bargain hunt makes Black Friday appealing, with some going so far to plan and strategize for maximum savings, said Hanser.
“Sometimes they even plot out the store and where stuff is ahead of time and then when it actually happens it’s like, one scholar called it, ‘The Great Race,’ this big challenge and then there’s a sense afterwards of mission accomplished, that they achieved what they were seeking to do.”