The modern-day slave to capitalism – Black Friday

Timothy Sithole
By Timothy Sithole November 21, 2019 10:17

The modern-day slave to capitalism – Black Friday

People have become so accustomed to bad spending habits that they will buy anything and everything just because they are told it’s what they need. This is what a modern-day slave to capitalism looks like.

By Timothy Sithole | 21 November 2019.

South Africa is characterised by its festive season spending habits. People do not miss the opportunity to splurge – often on things they don’t need with money they don’t have.

Black Friday, adopted from the US, is the name given to the shopping day after Thanksgiving. It stemmed from people flooding shopping malls more than usual on the day. This caused retailers to offer discounts, which resulted in pedestrian traffic mayhem and sometimes even violence with customers intent on buying all the stuff they never knew they needed just because of the ingenious marketing strategies of the retailers. Ergo the creation of humans that are obsessed with shopping and retail therapy.

Danish business strategist Martin Lindstrom once said: “Malls are the soul of seduction,” and that is where you will find most of the shopping-obsessed.

I used to think movies were exaggerating when they showed people fighting for a pair of shoes or that thanksgiving turkey until I witnessed it myself in real life. Consumerism has made people lose a bit of their humanity and many people can now be appropriately called modern-day slaves to capitalism.

You see such people taking days off from work and queuing from the early hours, seduced by “amazing” special offers and “fantastic” discounts – the adjectives being no less convincing for their lack of truth. They shove their way into the stores, unmindful of other consumers, in their pursuit to get what they want. They buy the shoes that they already have in another colour and their defence is “it’s a bargain” – only to put them away and rarely wear them.

They buy groceries and fill up the pantry but then always eat at restaurants because “slaying” and Instagram aesthetics are more important than saving. In a country ridden with excessive and compulsive spending, people borrow more than they earn. And on days like this, retailers advance the narrative that you need to spend on things that you don’t really need.

Retailers make you feel inadequate for not buying yourself that new iPhone, they convince you that you’re a hardworking man that needs that Tag Heuer and that the kids deserve that new PlayStation because they’ve been good sports the entire year. It’s systematic manipulation to make you spend money you don’t have. It just keeps their wallets fatter and yours thinner.

Many large retailers have announced that they are upping their staff for Black Friday and are even introducing “systematic shopping” – guiding customers with in-store navigation to direct the pedestrian traffic. One retailer even announced that it will open some stores at midnight to accommodate the early birds. Yes. Really.

This stuff works. Shoppers spent close to R3bn on Black Friday last year and you can imagine it’s going to be even more this year.

Retailers always capitalise on the human desire to want more than they have and they have been doing that throughout the year by offering specials and discounts, all leading up to this day. The concept has become so powerful that it appears to be poaching off the traditional December pre-Christmas shopping spree. Stats SA retail sales figures show that since its inception into SA in 2013, Black Friday sales have grown by 20% against only 11% growth for December sales.

December is still the certified and most loved silly season. People feel flush with their end-of- year bonuses and with lots of leave time, they do what they love best: spend. Despite this, black Friday sales last year spiked 2.8% while December sales fell by 1.7%.

Be careful not to fall for a wolf in sheep’s clothing this Black Friday! As Business Insider notes, some of the “specials” that are shoved down our throats are mere campaigns by large retailers to get rid of merchandise that has not been selling or is about to expire.

So here are some tips to navigate your shopping this Black Friday.

  1. Check that whatever item you are tempted to buy is actually on sale before purchasing.
  2. Ensure that the product you want to buy is not close to expiry or that it’s not outdated (so they’ll promote the 999th version of a new cellphone just before version 1 000 is released).
  3. Have a budget, draw up a shopping list and stick to it.
  4. Distinguish items based on needs and wants and try buy only what you need.
  5. The golden rule: never shop while you’re hungry, it forces you to spend more. Try online shopping while you’re at it.

Tip number six: just ignore the entire day – but I know I won’t. I’ve already seen a pair of sneakers with my name on them and some pink shorts that will make me the star attraction this summer. I confess, my colleagues have managed to convince me just a bit that a planned Black Friday can be advantageous.

As my editor recently discovered to his horror, there exists another excruciating day to strain your pocket even further: Cyber Monday. It comes just after Black Friday and promises to sell you all the latest gadgets and flashy devices “at low cost”.

Don’t people get tired of spending money?

Everything has its pros and cons, Black Friday too. Just avoid the traps they set out for you and you can get some great deals just before the silly season.

Timothy Sithole
By Timothy Sithole November 21, 2019 10:17

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