Story by Kimberly Rodriguez
Thanksgiving is a time filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and shopping that starts immediately after dinner. Black Friday has become such a popular event in American culture it has almost become a ritual to wait outside stores for hours. But are the deals worth leaving loved ones at the dinner table?
Black Friday has always taken place the day after Thanksgiving, but it was not until the 1930s that it was regarded as the beginning of Christmas shopping season. There have been many theories as to how the term “Black Friday” got started, but the most common dates back to the 1950s in Philadelphia. According to University of North Carolina neuroscientist Bonnie Taylor-Blake, the term was used by police officers in the area to describe the copious amount of shoppers from the suburbs that flooded the city days after Thanksgiving. Attempts to change the name of the event to something more politically correct, like “Big Friday” never stuck.
Today, Black Friday is considered the busiest shopping day of the year and has been since 2003. People line up in front of stores for hours waiting for them to open. Some even set up tents in order to keep their spot. A few stores have taken advantage of this popularity and even started their sales the night of Thanksgiving. Stores flourish as people shop the sales, but is this event worthy enough to garner the attention that it does? Do the sales really outweigh the time one could be spending with family or loved ones?
“I don’t think the sales are worth it,” said Ashley Stronach, a Black Friday shopper. “For standing in line for a half hour in the cold, all I got from Colombia was a ten dollar coupon. I would rather shop online.”
Stronach, who went to the Traverse Mountain Outlets in Lehi on the evening of Thanksgiving, was not the only person to think that. With the success of Black Friday and the ease of access to the internet, a majority of stores also had their sales online over the four-day weekend. According to the National Retail Federation, about 139.4 million adults visited stores’ websites during Thanksgiving weekend. Online sales reached more than 17% on Thanksgiving and 21% on Friday over last year according to IBM Benchmark.
Despite sales also being available online, stores still remain open and welcome the influx of people. Megan Gingerich, an employee for Coach, was working this past Thanksgiving night from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Black Friday from 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. While it was a hectic time, Gingerich remained optimistic about working those days.
“I work at Coach year round and it is almost a requirement. We also get paid extra (time and a half) on thanksgiving night. We are so busy that time goes by really fast as well,” she stated.
Gingerich was patient and prepared to handle Black Friday, but she also believes that the sales are not worth the buildup people make it out to be.
“It’s such a big deal to people because they think they are getting a really good deal on products. I think that a lot of people need to realize that sometimes you’re not really getting a good deal on Black Friday. Do your research.”
Stores have sales throughout the year, yet the public still remains under the illusion they are saving money because of the amount of advertising that gets produced for this day. Retailers make it seem as though there have never been sales like the ones being promoted, yet they are only discounting a couple dollars off products probably found cheaper elsewhere on a regular day. Because Black Friday is still a prevalent event, it means that people still have to sacrifice their time to work that holiday weekend.
“I think Black Friday definitely gets in the way of people who want to be with their families. The retailers I talked to all complained about having to work. Some of them were going to be there all night and I felt very bad for them,” said Stronach.
Black Friday has solidified itself as a cultural norm in the United States, regardless of whether or not sales are good. It has even made its way onto the internet with increasing popularity. Who knows, maybe this is a step in the right direction so people will no longer have to leave their loved ones back home while they are dealing with the frenzy of people in the stores.