Black Friday - a controversial day and the alternatives

Black Friday is on 26.11. Who will make the best bargain, who will discover the most blatant deals? The environmental impact is rarely considered...

What is Black Friday all about originally?

Black Friday originated in the USA and traditionally falls on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. The first Black Friday took place in Philadelphia on 24 November 1961. There, prices in local shops were reduced for the first time to attract people to the city on the day between Thanksgiving and the weekend. Apple was the first major company to follow suit in 2006, holding a one-day event where all products were reduced.

The trick behind Black Friday

In Germany, companies started to adopt the trend in 2013. But what is the idea behind it? There is a profitable marketing strategy behind Black Friday: boost consumption, empty the warehouses, make room for new goods. In an oversaturated market like Germany, we need special promotions so that more and more people buy. Millions of people around the world buy an extremely large number of things on this day that they don't actually need - because the offer is so tempting.

But are the offers on Black Friday really that good?

According to a study by ZDF WISO, customers tend not to save more or less than on other days. How can that be, given the incredible offers on Black Friday? The trick lies in deceptive phrases, "Save 50% and more!" are frequent phrases. Here, however, appearances are deceptive. The 50% often refers to the "original price" or also called the "manufacturer's recommended retail price" (UVP for short). This is set enormously high and the products are rarely that expensive in the shop. The higher the "original" price, the more we can - supposedly - save. Neuroscientifically, the mere sight of percentage signs on price tags have an effect on our reward system. So it's no surprise that on a day like Black Friday we usually buy more than we actually want or need.

Environmental impact of Black Friday

Whether it's electronic devices like the latest Bluetooth headphones, a smartphone or a fully automatic coffee machine, or a few new clothes and a spontaneous short trip: people shop until they drop. Many people don't realise that this can't be good for the environment. When we look at our CO2 footprint, consumption is the biggest factor of all, accounting for about 40%.

What alternatives are there?

How can we change this? There are now some alternative movements that are setting an example for conscious and sustainable consumption:

  • On "Buy-Nothing Day", the Saturday after Black Friday, a real consumption boycott is to be carried out for 24 hours. The idea is to really consume NOTHING and thus become aware of one's constant consumption.

  • On Circular Monday, the weekend after Black Friday, there is a call to question our consumption behaviour and to buy more consciously and sustainably. This means recycling, repairing or buying second-hand and acting according to the principle of the circular economy. Participating companies agree not to engage in any Black Friday marketing and not to offer any exclusive discounts in this context.

  • Green Friday is the most direct counter-proposal to Black Friday and calls for buying only sustainable things and from sustainable companies.

What you can do

First of all, something that is really close to our hearts: We are of course pleased that Black Friday is being viewed more and more critically and is already being boycotted in some cases. BUT: Not all people can afford to do without special offers or to buy the (mostly unfortunately) expensive sustainable alternative. Be aware of this and don't judge others if they snap up a Black Friday deal. You don't know their backgrounds. Be happy when you have the privilege to consume sustainably or to do without because you don't need anything.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to create awareness. Ask yourself with every purchase:

  • Do I own something similar that actually already fulfils the function?

  • Do I need to buy it new or is there a more sustainable alternative, maybe second hand or can I borrow it?

  • Is it an impulse buy or do I really need it?

If we create more awareness of our consumer behaviour and its consequences, together we can make a difference for the better.