First coined in response to a financial collapse in 1869, the phrase “Black Friday” re-emerged in 1950s Philadelphia when crowds of tourists and shoppers would flock to see the Army-Navy football game the day after Thanksgiving, causing overcrowded shops, citywide traffic gridlock, punch-ups and crime spikes. The police would cancel all leave to manage the chaos.
Today, the theme of a big shopping Friday the last week in November has spread to the UK and Europe where it marks the cut-price bargain bonanza that starts the festive retail rush.
It still gets ugly
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype around Black Friday. We all appreciate saving money and while some of us do grab a bargain, the day is also renowned for bringing out the worst in people with news stories showing crazy riots and looting as bloodied, screaming consumers fight over discounted TV screens and trainers.
Black Friday is one of those media-induced ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) days where we worry we may fail to catch a bargain or get benefits others are enjoying. After the chaos subsides however, “sales hangovers” create a raft of negative emotions in many consumers with guilt over spending, credit card stress and anxiety about a spendthrift Christmas taking the shine off the season.
The deceit of retail therapy
Retail marketing is subtle and powerful and a few tempting bargains can quickly turn into a debt-fuelled nightmare, especially as the ease of clicking products into online baskets now trumps trips to the shopping mall.
Sadly, many people use shopping as a temporary fix that leaves them empty and regretful as soon as the packaging comes off at home. For some, shopping, like online gambling or drugs and booze addiction, provides a short, pleasant rush, but as dopamine levels subside when credit card bills rise, “cold turkey” is truly on the menu long before Boxing Day dawns.
Being aware of those at risk of shopping addiction and recognising the many other emotional bandages people use when they aren’t coping is an important empathetic skill to develop whether it’s at home with family, or in the workplace with colleagues (our office family).
In my role as business coach and corporate trainer for Carol Barwick Learning and Development I help leaders and managers develop the skills to recognise the red danger flags of people barely coping, on the verge of losing hope and control. Many are self-medicating with drink and drugs (yes, and shopping too) because they feel they can’t handle the pressure anymore.
To tackle the danger, I provide Hypno-coaching and a range of training courses that allow people to access their subconscious mind and find the root cause of their problems, building resilience to stress and improving job and life satisfaction, as well as promoting wellbeing, productivity and morale in the workplace.
What’s good for the high street may not be great for you
In the workplace, as at home, stress and anxiety costs relationships. Financial problems are a major cause of arguments turbocharged by irresponsible spending, whether it’s shopping, gambling or another addiction.
Problems may manifest in physical and mental exhaustion; poor performance; sloppy appearance; repeated bouts of sickness; aggressive outbursts; conflict with other staff; poor communication and so on.
Our ‘work family’ can be in a good position to spot crucial changes in personality and behaviour that may suggest suicide risk or other mental health issues. Furthermore, front line staff, particularly those working for the Public Sector, housing associations, charities and in other customer-facing social roles often work with customers who are vulnerable or at risk too, and would benefit from having the knowledge how to direct people under life-threatening stress to appropriate help.
I have developed a Staff Wellbeing and Mental Health Awareness Workshop for the workplace to help business owners, managers and front-line staff identify and help colleagues and customers who may be at risk, connecting that person with the most appropriate sources of care.
For more information on this relevant and vital course, contact me.
In the meantime, here are 8 enriching tips to defuse Black Friday booby traps.
1. Refuse to be browbeaten into spending
If you’re skint and this is the only time of the year you can afford certain items, do make a list of what you really need and set a budget. The very word SALE is a time tested psychological trick that makes us spend cash unnecessarily, so resist impulse buys.
Remember, many shops offer price matching at any time of year and just because it’s got a Black Friday ticket attached, doesn’t mean you can’t buy cheaper elsewhere or on another day.
2. Be grateful (and generous)
Instead of an unhealthy focus on what you don’t have, be thankful for what you do have. In an appreciative mind-set, you’re less likely to impulse shop. Instead, do something opposite to consumerism and be kind and generous to someone else. If you’re off work, perhaps give some of your time to volunteer and help out locally. Be the person out there spreading alternative Black Friday joy around.
3. Cash in on old purchases
Consider decluttering by listing stuff on EBay, Gumtree or Shpock or donate to a charity shop. You can make money and save other people money simultaneously. It will focus your mind on how much money you’ve wasted in the past on irrelevant fashion and fads.
4. Good housekeeping offline
If you are at home, November is the time for a pre-Christmas tidy. Gardens need old plants clearing, and cars benefit from oil, water and tyre pressure checks for winter. You’ll feel satisfied, save money and be far too tired to shop!
If you must access your computer, instead of online shopping do some jobs you’ve been putting off like downloading photos from your phone on to your hard drive; tidying a messy desktop; editing your iTunes folder or going through your email and archiving messages.
5. Walk or run somewhere lovely
Exercise costs nothing and releases happy hormones called endorphins that improve mood and balance emotions. You could also cycle or drive somewhere new as an alternative to shopping.
6. Visit the Museum or Art Gallery
Similarly, an activity that takes you somewhere other than shops can enrich your life. Consider an experience or activity that doesn’t cost much like free museums and galleries; or pay a little to watch a film. While others are queueing at noisy tills make the most of quiet times at other venues.
7. Make a Bucket List
What are the top 20 things you want to do before you die? By avoiding spending on unnecessary Black Friday frivolities, you’ve made a start saving toward some of them.
Read that book or listen to some relaxing music while writing Christmas cards in a comfy chair by candlelight. As the clock strikes midnight you can consider all the things you’ve achieved and money you’ve saved on Saturday morning. You wise old Scrooge!