This is not a Black Friday special

Black Friday Advert

Ennui: a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from lack of interest; boredom.

I remember when Black Friday was not an event in South Africa. After all the Black Friday emails I received this week, I'm confused.

Is it real? Is it even Friday?

In the US, Thanksgiving is on a Thursday. As a result, many people take the day after Thanksgiving off work. Before the days of Netflix and the like, lots of people spent the day at the local shopping mall. Police first called it Black Friday because of the heavy foot and vehicle traffic. Clever retailers saw the trend. They extended shopping hours and added specials to encourage the start of the Christmas spending spree.

Given that we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in SA, why do we have Black Friday?

Then there is Cyber Monday. Black Friday is for physical retail outlets, and Cyber Monday is for online shopping. But with the increase in online shopping since the pandemic, is this still a distinction? I don't know.

The name suggests that Black Friday should be a day. But many retailers have announced month-long deals, apparently to avoid crowding. So should we give it a new name? "Maroon Moon"? "Madness Month"?

Predictions for 2021

I checked out some predictions for SA retailers, based on surveys. By the time you read this, these may or may not turn out to be accurate. But a few are interesting.

Prediction #1: 47% of SA adults plan to shop on Black Friday. More men than women plan to buy something on Black Friday. So much for stereotypes. Should we call it "Man Month"?

Prediction #2: Only half of the people planning to shop believe that Black Friday offers are real. A good 13% of us think that retailers hike the prices to make the specials look like specials. Are we cynical or street-wise?

Prediction #3: Almost 15% of those who plan to shop will only be shopping because they are ... wait for it ... bored.

Better broke than bored?

That last one surprised me. We all suffer from ennui these days, more so because of the sameness of pandemic life. But boredom won't get me to the shops on Black Friday.

There's a reason for that. Psychology research divides people into those who focus more on achieving tasks, versus those who focus more on making connections with others. Task-oriented shoppers want to find what they need as quickly as possible. We don't like crowds. Socially-oriented shoppers enjoy having other people around when they shop. Crowds energize them.

But I'm still confused. How does that translate to online shopping? Even if you enjoy crowds, you won't enjoy a retail website going down because of the volume of visitors.

Good luck

Black Friday is a tough time for the people who make shopping possible. So let's remember the software engineers who will work overtime to keep things running on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Maroon Moon. May your systems stay up and your users stay calm!

Here's my favourite meme for Black Friday: "Keep calm. It's just Friday".

I'd love you to share your thoughts and comments.

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