Yesterday, those of us based in the UK had to once again suffer another American imported ‘holiday’, as shops and online retailers pushed their ‘Black Friday’ deals in our faces.
“Black Friday?” I hear you ask.
Picture every shop you know ‘slashing’ the prices on products you’ve never wanted nor heard of before, with occasional discounts on high-end, quality and desirable goods. So in an electronics shop, that would equate to £0.99 off all ‘Hello Kitty’ themed USB cables and £5000 off three TVs. Cue arguments over who has the right to buy the TV. And, on occasion, fist fights.
Therefore, not all the bargains are actually bargains. In some cases, the discounts are risible but presented in such a way as to take advantage of the very poor maths abilities of the great unwashed. From the BBC:
“Which? tracked the prices of 94 popular products for six months before and after Black Friday last year.
It said that the “overwhelming majority” – some 87% of those goods – were cheaper at other times of year.
Its analysis covered retailers including Currys PC World, Amazon, John Lewis and Argos.”
In other cases, the discounts are huge, but on things you didn’t really knew you wanted and so you’re not saving anything. In fact, you’re paying 100% more on that sweater, because you weren’t going to buy it in the first place. I repeat: it’s not a bargain if you didn’t come out with the intention of buying it.
“American?” I hear you inquire.
Yes, American. It’s tied to the ironically-termed ‘Thanksgiving’, which seems to be simply a dry-run of Christmas, so everyone can experience horrific travel fuck-ups, family arguments and over-indulgence of food and drink, just to repeat the whole thing mere weeks later.
So ‘Black Friday’ is definitely an American celebration of consumerism, which has floated over the Atlantic, just like ‘Cyber Monday’. And don’t get me started on that one.
Can you tell I’m not a fan?
If you trotted out yesterday and secured yourself a 60″ flatscreen TV to replace your failing one, at a massive discount, well done. I wish you many hours of happy TV watching in the years to come. If you went to one of the high street fashion holes and bought your own bodyweight in clothing for the ‘holiday season’, again – good for you. I hope you look your very best in them.
And most importantly, if Black Friday represented an opportunity for you to spread the (significant) cost of Christmas, then well done for making life a little bit easier for yourself.
My dislike of this ‘celebration’ shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment. I’m not that much of a killjoy.
That said, I don’t spend the week leading up to Black Friday scouring the internet for bargains, then spending three months of income in a thirty minute period. I don’t bang on about how many bargains I’ve snagged on the high street. I don’t want to dive headfirst into accidentally spending more than I’d like on things I don’t really need or want. I’m trying to unlearn the habit of a lifetime here, one that saw me accumulate enough belongings for three people when I was in my twenties and thirties.
So now, I maintain a note on my iPhone which consists of a list of things I’d like to buy at some point. Not urgent groceries or even gifts for others, but things I’d like to get for myself at some point in time, if prices and budget allow. And yesterday, while reading some technology news online, I came across a story about massive discounts on iPad Minis.
And this is news, as you rarely see massive discounts on anything with an Apple logo. But this time, there was a full £100 off the iPad Mini 4. And so I was intrigued. I read further and did some clicking and lo and behold, the discount was from John Lewis, one of the more reputable and trustworthy retailers.
I checked my list. The iPad Mini was on it. I exchanged a few texts with my consumer-in-chief and head bargain-hunter @TheFrankFlyer and he agreed: it was worth getting. And so, I broke my run of several years and made a large purchase on Black Friday.
I have to admit feeling a mixture of shame and pride. Shame that I’d bought into the whole experience, but pride that I’d managed to get something at a significant discount without making any compromises.
I’m picking up my purchase here in Canary Wharf later this afternoon. And if my plans for it don’t work out, the no-hassle returns policy at John Lewis means I’ll have lost nothing.
As a result, my home isn’t full of bags and boxes, nor my mind full of self-loathing and regret. If there’s one thing it’s taken me most of my adulthood to learn, it’s that things don’t make you happy – experiences and other people do. That’s why I spend so much of my time traveling and enjoying new places.
Here endeth the lesson.