Black Friday reduces time with family members

Millions of U.S. citizens anticipate Black Friday with great joy, but many are not aware of its origins, purpose or economic feasibility.

Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, among other prominent holidays, Black Friday has no religious or cultural significance. Interestingly, there is no definitive answer as to why Black Friday is called what it is, but there are a few common ideas.

One hypothesis is that Black Friday referred to a stock market catastrophe in which the price of gold plummeted on Sept. 24, 1869. Black is a term usually given to any particularly devastating day in the financial markets, which is how the term Black Friday might have been coined.

Another hypothesis was proposed in the 1980s. Retailers usually operated at a financial loss for most of the year, and they started to make profits during the holiday season.

It was a common accounting practice then to record negative numbers in red ink, and positive numbers in black ink. Therefore, Black Friday got its name because it was the first day stores turned a profit for the year and wrote their numbers in black ink.

It is also believed that Black Friday refers to the large crowds and traffic that occur at the start of the Christmas shopping season.

It seems that Black Friday has always been a commercialized event. Some may argue that there is no harm in having a day when people can buy a new flat screen television cheaply. However, Black Friday has an immediately harmful effect on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To maximize profits, retailers open their stores not only at midnight, but hours before on Thanksgiving.

This creates a situation where people prefer to eat Thanksgiving dinner with their families earlier in the day to rush to the store for the deals. Some may even choose to skip dinner and quality time with families altogether, prioritizing deals over loved ones.

Employees, who might prefer to be home, are also forced to work on Thanksgiving because of these time shifts. Since Black Friday also signals the start of the holiday shopping season, it gets people thinking about Christmas gifts in advance and sets a consumerism precedent for the next month.

The large discounts that characterize Black Friday seem illusory. Retailers might be in cahoots with their suppliers to set starting prices that, when discounted, will give the retailers the profits that they want. Items that have discounts on them were never meant to sell at their original price.

This all means that Black Friday may not be very profitable for retailers. The gross margins, or the difference between what is paid for goods and what price the goods are sold at, of retailers like Best Buy, Macy’s and Walmart are usually flat. Discounts may already be factored into the price of the product.

It is better to spend Thanksgiving with family members and loved ones, sleep off the feast on Friday and get great deals on Cyber Monday, instead of camping out for six hours at a Macy’s for a sweater that may not really be discounted.