The Truth about Black Friday (Practical Tips Included)

Black Friday. When you hear this, you either are excited, thinking that the moment to buy what you’ve wanted for so long, but you couldn’t afford it, has arrived, or you begin swearing hard at the consumerism, whose sole purpose is to empty the pockets of hard-working people.

Leaving feelings aside, Black Friday does exist. Just like the autumn rains. Or the changing of the time zone. Or the colds.

And if it actually exists, then it is good to know what you have to do in a situation like this one. So, I’m going to tell you what others are not so willing to share. Along with its ups and downs.

Black Friday refers to dozens of events

The Seven Bishops Committed to the Tower in 1688

In times of history, all kinds of events – usually gloomy ones – were known as Black Friday: financial cracks, street riots, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, etc.

The oldest event called Black Friday occurred on the 8th of July 1688. On a Friday, of course. Back then, the seven bishops of the Church of England were committed to the Tower because they were against the way the king wanted to enforce freedom of religion 1)The History Of England From the Accession of James II” by Thomas Babington Macaulay, book published in 1848.

It’s really fascinating how a denomination with so many negative connotations has now come to represent a commercial event with an astounding success, and much expected by millions of people annually. It’s almost like a holiday!

Nowadays, when you hear “Black Friday“, you can hardly think of anything else than reduced prices, crammed stores, and foolish shopping. The name has been interpreted as such almost everywhere.

When is Black Friday?


According to the definition, Black Friday is on the following day after Thanksgiving Day.

But there raises the question: When is Thanksgiving Day?

That’s according to where you live. Thanksgiving Day is a tradition in many countries. Even if in some parts it is called, more or less, Harvest Thanksgiving Festival, it is actually the same thing: a day in which people are grateful for what nature has given them and even more.

Thanksgiving Day is always in the middle or the end of the autumn season. The exact date depends on the local tradition.

Because Black Friday, originally, is from the United States, and it must follow the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It would also be the most logical interpretation, given the fact that Black Friday must follow a Thursday, and in the United States Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

Still, in the countries which do not have Thanksgiving as a reference point, Black Friday is a Friday chosen only for commercial reasons. Most of the times, it’s the Friday after the American one, so as to have another such occasion the following week.

How long does the Black Friday last?

This question sounds pretty ridiculous. If it’s called Black Friday, it should last no more than a day.

Only that, during that period, the time suffers a distortion, and that particular Friday bridges as long as three days, just like we read in those fairy tales. (Black Weekend is not that appealing a name, isn’t it?)

Initially, Black Friday was a commercial event only for the physical stores. But when the online stores began to have significant market shares, somebody came with the idea that they should also have a similar event. It was chosen to be the Monday following the Black Friday. On the 28th of November 2005, during a press release, Ellen Davis (the vice-president of National Retail Federation) called the event the Cyber Monday.

It sounds good. But only in theory. Soon after, the owners of the online stores were not contented with picking up the scraps after the Black Friday. Thus, they began their Cyber Monday on… Friday.

On the other hand, the big chain-stores have extended in the online department. And that’s how Black Friday came to last from Friday to Monday.

Black Friday may bring fat profits, but to whom? The competition is fierce.

As in any race, the advantage is to have a quick-start. Some of them have started to beat the gun, by launching their offers as soon as Thursday – under the designation the Gray Thursday. And this is on the very day when Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States 2)What Is Gray Thursday? Black Friday Store Hours ‘Bleed’ Into Thanksgiving Day” by Zoe Mintz, article published in International Business Times on the 27th of November 2013. And the number of those who are willing to sacrifice their wonderful family holiday for some bargains is pretty high…

The most recent idea would be that Black Friday should last the entire month of November. This is just going too far. Black Friday is about to be crushed by its own success.

Where does the denomination of Black Friday come from?

There’s a theory according to which Black Friday got its name from a black slave sale, at a cheap price, which would have taken place on a day following Thanksgiving. But there’s no proof to it. In fact, the term was coined after the abolition of slavery.

The oldest written reference to Black Friday dates back to 1951. M.J. Murphy wrote ironically about a sudden illness – called “Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis” – which affects many of the working people right after Thanksgiving. It can be justified by a medical exemption (doctors are humans too). How can you not get the illness when you have a day off (national holiday), then a working day and after that the weekend?! That’s how the “unfortunate” day was called, by the same author, “Black Friday3)”Tips to Good Human Relations for Factory Executives” by M.J. Murphy, article published in Factory Management and Maintenance magazine, November 1951.

After that, for some other reasons, the term was used once again in 1961. Thanksgiving was already giving the start to the Winter Holiday season. The following day, Santa Clause would make his appearance in the big stores. Particularly in Philadelphia, these were some horror days for the policemen: beside the overcrowding in the shops, there was also a sport event. Many of the cars were parked along the edge of the street, occupying a whole lane. The traffic was hellish, and the cops were “absolutely thrilled” – every single one of them was on duty for a 12-hour shift. That’s why these days got to be ironically called as Black Friday and Black Saturday. These names were first mentioned in the press by Joseph P. Barrett and Nathan Kleger 4)This Friday Was Black With Traffic” by Joseph P. Barrett, article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on the 25th of November 1994.

How black became a colour in fashion?

A few years later, this Philadelphia story was becoming all too creepy. The authorities came up with the idea of enforcing several measures in order to improve the situation.

The sellers were not at all delighted by the association of the event with a negative denotation such as Black Friday, thus, they came with the proposal of turning that day into a positive event, called Big Friday. Said and done. It’s just that everybody kept calling it by the name of Black Friday.

Just how profitable is Black Friday for the sellers?

No doubt that Black Friday is a good commercial idea. Among the American accountants runs the joke that Black Friday is the day when the profits goes from red (loss) to black (profit).

On the other hand, the profits are not that big as all this madness lets us to believe. Surely, there is a considerable increase in sales when compared to the rest of the year. But the actual gain from each sale is much smaller. When the seller draws the line, the result is not that surprising. Black Friday is not the most profitable day of the year for the sellers. The Christmas Eve is on top.

How does Black Friday properly work

Let’s conduct a small case study. An imaginary, simple one for a day-to-day product, just to get an idea of how it works. If it sounds too complicated, you can skip right to the conclusion.

In general on Black Friday
The supplier cost $100 $100
The number of items bought from the supplier 100 items 500 items
(a discount may be obtained for this quantity)
The discount offered for the quantity bought at the supplier cost - 10%
The supplier purchase cost $100 $90
Percentage of trade mark-up 30% 10%
Value of trade mark-up $30 $9
Sale price $130 $99
Items sold 100 items 400 items
(the items sold are numerous due to their reduced price)
Gross profit $3000 $3600
After that
Items left on stock 0 items 100 items
Restocking 100 items 0 items
New purchase cost $130 $130
Value of trade mark-up $30 $40
(because the purchase cost was cheaper)
Gross profit from restocking / items left on stock $3000 $4000
Total Gross Profit $6000 $7600
Expenditures on salaries, rent, etc. $5000 $5000
Expenditures on marketing, etc. $100 $600
Net profit $900 $2000

Long story short: the whole thing lies in the increase of the circulating goods, which is made possible by the success of the event. And in theory, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.

10 tricks that sellers do on Black Friday

The goal of every seller is to sell. As much as possible. That’s his very reason for living. Thus, it’s quite understandable that he uses all kinds of techniques to raise the sales. To some extent, at least.

It’s worse when those techniques turn into tricks. Or even fraud.

But everybody knows that every deceit has its deceiver and its deceived. There’s no one without the other.

Trade has become more like a psychologic game. And, like in every other game, you have to study your opponent in order to win, so that you can learn his techniques and not get caught in his trap.

Here are the most common tricks on Black Friday:

  1. Creating some expectations

    Everybody knows that on Black Friday there are some massive sales. So if you’re a bit hard-up, you hope this would be the occasion to buy what you want with little money. You’re willing to patiently wait for it months on end. In the meantime, you do your research, you choose the desired model, and dream about possessing it.

    The ugly truth is that on Black Friday only few products have a price much cheaper than during the rest of the year. It is very likely that the model you want is not on sale (at least, not at significant discount). Your frustration is ready to brim over. So you take a look at the products with special price. And in the end you buy a similar product, even if it’s not the one of your dreams. You soothe yourself at the thought that it was cheap.

    Sellers know that this scenario happens in most of the cases. They will give you the impression that on Black Friday all the prices plummet. The more you dream about it, the more likely it is for you to buy something. For them, it doesn’t really matter what specifically.

  2. Derived products

    In every domain, there are some successful products, which are more desired than others. Every good salesperson looks at the statistics and knows which those products are.

    If they come with an excellent offer for such products on Black Friday, the sales would be accordingly. But how can there be – for example – a 40% cut, if the trade mark-up itself is 30%?

    And that’s how the derived products came into play. The manufacturer takes a successful product, but within the same casing puts components of a lower quality. Just imagine that inside a very performant laptop is placed a poorer video chip, a smaller harddisk, and the software is no longer included… If the offer comes along with a “gift”, let’s say a laptop bag, it practically flies off the shelves.

    You’ll say that this is nothing but a scumbag. But the manufacturer makes sure not to put itself at risk. It adds an extra letter to the model code and writes down all the specifications correctly. Few people pay attention to them, anyway – especially during the frenzy on Black Friday, when your only fear is not to go home empty-handed.

    Do not think that this happens only in China. Even the big brands do it.

  3. Sell-off

    The first products sold to buyers for a massive price cut are those which are morally outdated or not longer in fashion. When it comes to technology, these aspects do matter (for example, when a certain facility has an outdated standard).

    But the salespersons won’t tell you that on Black Friday. You should get it on your own, if that’s the case.

  4. Prices inflated beforehand

    A common trick is to inflate the price before Black Friday, so as the price discount would seem more considerable when the time comes.

    Some brands make a policy out of keeping their prices high, so that they can often have attractive price cuts, especially on Black Friday.

  5. Round-offs

    Have you ever wondered how come the sale figures don’t have decimals? They are rounded-off, of course.

    If you do the math, you may be in for a surprise. A sale of 38,5% is beautifully rounded-off to 40%.

  6. Doorbusters

    The most unbelievable sales are called “doorbusters” and their purpose is to attract as many customers. They are very well promoted. Let the people come fighting over the goods.

    The prices are so low that you wonder what’s to come in for the seller. In fact, not much. Not from these products, anyway.

    The trick is that there are very few items in stock. The first customers lay their hands on them, while the rest walk around the store to see whatever is there to buy. When you wait several hours in a queue for the store to be opened, you are not exactly eager to leave empty-handed.

    When it comes to the online stores, where the number of the items in stock is not visible, it’s even simpler: the seller may have only one item of a particular product on a very special deal. No wonder that it’s instantly out of stock.

  7. Shop scares

    Even if Halloween is gone, you can get scared on Black Friday as well. Only that it’s more subtly done, at shopping.

    “Limited stock” is the favorite scare. So you’ll ask yourself: What if this is the last chance to buy something so cheap, but otherwise, a product that I don’t need?!

  8. Next year

    When you see a product that appeals you, the thought of not having enough money to buy it may keep you away. But if you have the chance to buy it in instalments, well, that’s a different thing. The instalments are way smaller than the whole price. Moreover: you don’t pay the interest until the following year. In some cases, you don’t even pay the first installment until “next year”. The resistance movement in your head is defeated.

    The truth is that “next year” seems very far away, but actually it’s pretty close – just a month away. And you’ll pay that interest scot and lot.

  9. Shopping coupons for January

    If the discount for a product is not attractive enough, the seller can attach a coupon to it. For example, 10% of the product value that you buy can be used as a discount for another product sometime in January.

    It sounds good at first. But the truth is that January is a bad month for sales; the seller doesn’t have much to lose if he keeps the prices high for a week. Tough luck: just when you were supposed to use your coupon.

  10. Christmas is coming

    At Christmas, people tend to be more open-handed. They are willing to spend more money – for others, as well for themselves.

    Only that from Black Friday until Christmas there is one more month to wait!

    No problem. If the stores are decorated for the Winter Holiday Season and if you can hear playing Christmas songs and smell the flavour of all those goodies – then you already feel embraced by the “Christmas spirit”. How much money do you have on your credit card?

Black Friday

How to shop smart on Black Friday

No matter what’s your opinion on Black Friday, the event does exist. And you can even benefit from it. You just have to master the game.

  1. Cultivate your feeling of gratitude

    Black Friday is like an orgy for the impulse buyers. There are so many attractions and so many psychological pressures that you may end up buying things that you don’t really need.

    But you are a grown-up person, self-controlled. You train yourself well before leaving: you will resist temptations!

    Unless the psychological studies show us, that self-control is not really working. At first, you maintain your position, but because self-control is an exhaustible resource, it runs out. If you linger too much in a store, it’s probably that you won’t be able to control yourself at some point, and so the emotions will overcome the rational. (Why do you think malls were invented?!)

    But there is another way. Psychologists, as well as other wise people, show us the wondrous virtue of gratitude 5)Want to be happy? Be grateful” by David Steindl-Rast, lecture appeared in TEDGlobal 2013. If you learn to appreciate what you have, as well as what you buy at a given point, the urge – sometimes a reckless one – of wanting this or that begins to diminish. Almost by half 6)How to Defeat the Impulse Buy” by David DeSteno, article published in The New York Times on the 21th of November 2014.

    Surely, it’s hard to this at once, especially on Black Friday. But think in perspective. The feeling of gratitude is so important, that it can change your life in a marvelous way. Actually, it is the very virtue celebrated on Thanksgiving. If you are an American, you just have to believe so strongly in it, so that you won’t forget about it the following day, meaning on Black Friday.

  2. Do your research early

    According to Google Trends, there are people who look up for information on Black Friday no sooner than October.

    That’s about time when you should start doing your research, if you put your mind on profiting from Black Friday in order to buy an expensive product cheaper. You must know what you’re after, without developing an obsession for a particular model. It’s useful to save or print the characteristics of those models which you find appropriate, so that you can compare them in the actual moment of buying. Even if they are similar, they might not be the same thing.

  3. Don't forget about the seller's tricks

    When you feel the psychological pressure or the “enchantment” ensnares you, you are about to be “checkmated”. If you manage to realize that, you can stay rational.

    And don’t forget to make sure that whatever you’re buying is really what you think it is.

  4. The discount percentage doesn't matter

    Black Friday is all about the discount which is why every seller is doing his best to come up with the most attractive cut by a certain percentage.

    The truth is that those percentages can be deceitful. In the end, all that matters is how much you pay. The final price is what you have to keep your focus on.

    Pay a close look to the final price! Just because it is Black Friday, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the best offer. Don’t forget that a whole month of sales lies ahead!

  5. Is it really worth it?

    If you aimed for a good price in a store, you have to ask yourself: Is the price difference worth losing you half a day and get you on your nerves?

    Here comes the advantage of the online shopping: you dodge the crowd and quickly shift from one store to another.

Crowd on Black Friday

That’s what it’s pretty much about Black Friday. After all, it’s up to you how black you see it. And some of us really like black.

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Article written exclusively for Miratico by Lucian Velea
Lucian Velea is the founder of Miratico and many other online projects.


1 The History Of England From the Accession of James II” by Thomas Babington Macaulay, book published in 1848
2 What Is Gray Thursday? Black Friday Store Hours ‘Bleed’ Into Thanksgiving Day” by Zoe Mintz, article published in International Business Times on the 27th of November 2013
3 ”Tips to Good Human Relations for Factory Executives” by M.J. Murphy, article published in Factory Management and Maintenance magazine, November 1951
4 This Friday Was Black With Traffic” by Joseph P. Barrett, article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on the 25th of November 1994
5 Want to be happy? Be grateful” by David Steindl-Rast, lecture appeared in TEDGlobal 2013
6 How to Defeat the Impulse Buy” by David DeSteno, article published in The New York Times on the 21th of November 2014

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