Once upon a time, there was just Black Friday. With the advent of online shopping came Cyber Monday. Now, it seems like the sales surrounding Cyber Monday take up an entire week – and Black Friday, the week before. With big sales garnering big attention from people looking to save some money on holiday shopping, is it a good thing that these sales stretch out into infinity? CELEB takes a look at the evolution of Cyber MondayWeek, and why Black Friday is a fightin’ phrase in some families.
Black Friday’s Controversial Past
It all started with Black Friday. In the 1800’s, it was associated with a financial crisis. But over the years, it became tied to an urban legend. Businesses that operated in the red all year long could take a nice deep breath as Thanksgiving approached. Because the day after Thanksgiving – known as Black Friday – people would crowd stores to binge shop and stock up on holiday goodies for friends and family.
There’s some truth to that, but it’s mostly just a weirdly wholesome origin story for what’s become the symbol of out-of-control consumerism. In the past, people have been killed attempting to procure Black Friday deals. NY Post reports, “Between 2006 and 2018, according to the Hustle, 44 Black Friday incidents in America left 11 dead and 109 injured — including one man who brought home a shattered hip after being shoved into a shelf of cut-rate presents.
There’s even an entire website devoted to tragedies on the commerce holiday, called Black Friday Death Count, which documents some of the worst melees.
Danger be damned, customers are willing to put up with it so long as the sales are on. In 2018, stores raked in $6.2 billion in a single day, according to Digital Trends.”
People have been pepper sprayed, shot, and trampled to death all for that coveted lowest price of the year. Black Friday deaths – a uniquely American phenomenon for obvious reasons – have become a symbol of American consumerism and a mocking point for those trying to draw attention to our unhealthy love affair with buying things.
But Black Friday’s deaths aren’t the only controversy about the binge shopping holidays. Because Black Friday sales were so successful, businesses looked to start them earlier and earlier each year, until some places were starting sales as early as just after dinner on Thanksgiving Day. This meant that workers in retail stores – often desperately underpaid – were forced to leave dinner early and deal with hordes of ungrateful shoppers on a day that should have been for family and food. This year, however, in the wake of last year’s canceled Black Friday sales, many big box stores have opted to stay closed on Thanksgiving and be reasonable about when they open their doors for Black Friday shoppers. It may be because they don’t want any more blood on their hands, but retail workers benefit from the new policies.
Black Friday isn’t the only shopping crazy day around the Thanksgiving Holiday. In 2005, as online shopping started gaining ground, Cyber Monday was launched as a way to offer online stores a piece of the binging pie. It also allowed stores that operate both brick and mortar and online to get rid of some of the inventory that didn’t make it out the door on Black Friday.
Just as Black Friday sales have creeped earlier and earlier in Thanksgiving week, often starting as early as Monday now, Cyber Monday has become a week-long affair. Cyber Monday sales kicked off pretty much as soon as Black Friday ended, with Amazon making the switch just after midnight on Saturday morning. Many of these sales will now extend throughout the week, begging the question, “should we just rename it ‘Cyber Week’?”
Due to the pandemic, Cyber Monday has hit an all-time high in popularity, even though many Black Friday deals are available online. People are used to the idea that Monday will offer the best online sales, so shoppers with a list in mind often wait if they plan on shopping online. In reality – many Cyber Monday sales are just a re-hash of Black Friday deals, and now that the sales extend beyond their original day, you can pretty much just pick a day within the two weeks before and after Thanksgiving and buy what you want – you’ll probably get the best or close to the best deal on any day.
Other Sale Days with Catchy Names
If you’re not digging Black Friday or Cyber Monday and want to eschew the big box stores for something a little more personal, there’s always Small Business Saturday. On Saturday each year, sandwiched between the gorging Friday and Monday sales, small businesses across the country offer modest discounts to customers to draw them in.
Small Business Saturday is arguably more true to the origins of Black Friday than the day itself is these days, and SBS can help bring small businesses out of the red for the first time all year. Small business shopping is a concept that has gained traction over the past year and a half as people strive to support their communities and help keep family businesses open. So if you’re going to be loyal to your neighbors – might as well do it on big sale day so everyone wins.
If consumerism has your head spinning and you just want people to stop taking – there’s always Giving Tuesday. On Tuesday, people are encouraged to give money or donations to charities or needy people to counteract the glut of the holiday shopping craze. With consumerism at an all-time high – after all, retail therapy has gotten many of us through the pandemic – Giving Tuesday is a way to flip the script and turn our love affair with things and the US dollar into real change and progress.