Black Friday and marketing conformity

Black Friday descends once more on the UK and the world. Frenzied crowds pushing and shoving, fights in the ailses as literally millions of people pile into Asda, Tesco and other stores promising slashed price bargains for the first few through the door.

Riots ensue, store are closed within minutes, police called out, ambulances called out.

I like a bargain as much as the next person but this mindless crowd mentality baffles me, it’s not logical.

I am brought to mind of a figure entitled Doing what is expected: the power of the situation (from Investigating Psychology by Brace and Byford). The images shows three pictures, one of a WWI trench charge (ordered into a hail of bullets), a football crowd (following the referee) and a crowd by a zebra crossing (obeying a traffic officer). Seems to me the mayhem pictures in the news stories linked below would fit well in there.

But who is the authority figure here? Where is Milgram’s ‘experimenter’? He’s there, hiding in plain sight, innocuous, passive – insidious. He’s there when you turn on the TV in the corner and the bold adverts promise to make YOUR Christmas special with a 40″ screen slashed by 70% in price. He’s there when you open the paper and similar offers lure you. You turn on the computer and web pages bombard you from all sides of the screen. You think to escape to the pub or the park for walk and a friend or neighbour will ask if you too are going to Asda for the Black Friday bargains…

What makes a rational, normal person, fall for an advertising campaign like that – to the extend they will attack others (and be attacked in turn) to make sure THEY get the bargain. They MUST have that cheap LCD or ‘Frozen’ bedcover.

One has to wonder how many psychologists turn to the dark side and join Lord Vader, working away in the marketing departments for the multi-nationals.

Similarly for those feverishly watching bargains on-line, credit card at the ready, heart racing as the big clock times down the minutes and seconds.

… to buy old stock that the manufacturers and major stores have spun your way to clear stock for the new products to be released shortly. Black Friday, as far as I can tell, is inventory management tottering in high-heels and a black dress before the gullible masses.

Black Friday, Asda 2014

I got a Dyson but I don’t even know if I want it. I just picked it up, Louise Haggerty, a 56-year-old hairdresser and waitress, said of her 1am trip to the Black Friday sales. It was mental in there. It was crazy. It was absolutely disgusting, disgusting.

Black Friday article by the Guardian, 2014

Yet they still conform!

Daily Mail : Black Friday mayhem: Police called to dozens of supermarkets as shoppers fight over bargains in hunt for Christmas deals

BBC: ‘Black Friday’: Police called to supermarket crowds

So it’s a new thing, right? Not like anyone really gets hurt, right?

NY 2008 : Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede.

One person from the crowd, interviewed by police, justified his part in the pushing (and trampling) by saying "I was in line since Friday morning!" (For 20 dollars off a PS3.)

Another, more shocked witness at the scene said that the "shoppers acted like ‘savages’ ", while one of the dead man’s colleagues asked, "”How could you take a man’s life to save $20 on a TV?"

How indeed.

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