When Black Friday Meets Real Estate
“Here’s wishing your Black Friday injuries aren’t so severe that you can’t click a mouse on Cyber Monday.” ~Author Unknown
Well, it is Black Friday and already Americans have found themselves involved in brawls and general mayhem as businesses attempt to lure Turkey-stuffed shoppers to their stores today to purchase Christmas gifts (or that 120″ TV that you had to have). Of course, many media outlets are reporting that the best sales no longer take place on Black Friday, but on Cyber Monday, so frugal shoppers can snuggle in their PJ’s and shop to their heart’s content online for last minute steals.
What causes the panic and violence that is often witnessed on Black Friday? Simply put, Black Friday was given its nickname by the Philadelphia Police Department to describe the panic and chaos they saw when hordes of pedestrians and cars crowded downtown Philadelphia the day after Thanksgiving in 1966. Retailers decided to use the term to their advantage and advertise deep discounts and incentive offers to the public, recognizing that being “in the black” in accounting terms represented profitability, as opposed to being “in the red” which signified loss.
Did you know? Historically, American shoppers did 50 percent of all their Christmas shopping on Black Friday. 2008 was the first Black Friday since 1992 to see sales drop from the previous year. What leads people to act out violently on this particular day? In some cases, businesses need to place the blame on themselves. In 2006, a mall in California offered a promotional giveaway of 500 gift cards. They dropped them from the ceiling of the mall to over 2,000 frantic shoppers. It caused a stampede and resulted in several people being injured. “Competitive shopping” as described by a Los Angeles fireman, referenced the acts of violence and aggression witnessed in another California mall. Frenzied shoppers literally went to war over parking spots, shopping carts, line-ups, and one woman even decided the way to address the situation was to pepper spray other shoppers.
Psychologists explain the Black Friday mentality as a fear of scarcity, causing people to become more competitive, and tiggering a fear about missing out on deals. Our primitive “flight or fight” response causes some shoppers to become overtly aggressive to other shoppers. Of course, retailers play a part in getting shoppers “worked up” as millions of dollars are spent on huge advertising campaigns promoting steep discounts and limited offers. It can create a frenzied atmosphere amongst shoppers, who may even end up buying items they don’t want or need just to ensure that they don’t miss out on a perceived deal. When people miss out on the deal, they can become frustrated and lash out, in response to their plans being thwarted and their goals unmet.
To counter the violence, some retailers are now trying to promote Cyber Monday so that the anxious buyers can stay in their own homes and do battle over the internet, rather than in a store. I have witnessed the Black Friday insanity in the U.S. and can honestly say that I do not need a TV or electronics device that badly to battle a mosh-pit of anxious shoppers. Retailers now offer apps for your phone so that you can receive reminders about waking up in time to stand in line for hours before the store even opens.
Could you ever conceive of a Black Friday for real estate? It seems that it would be plausible, especially in very busy markets that might see multiple offers, selling prices that are much higher than list price, and buyers not wanting to miss out on a “great deal”. Although I have not witnessed violence during negotiations, I have seen the darker side of some buyers. I dealt with a client who was getting ready to enter into a multiple offer and wanted me to give him special hand signals when I saw the other offers so that he would know how much more to offer. I quickly determined that this was not the type of client I wanted to represent and advised him to find another agent to represent him. He was shocked that someone would not support his unique negotiating method, and ended up not pursuing the property.
Everyone wants a good deal, even in real estate. However, I would hate to think that home buyers would act the same way buying a home that some shoppers behave to buy a TV. The irony is not lost on me that the items purchased on Black Friday will likely be obsolete or not trendy by the next year. Perhaps, we as a society, need to evaluate how much value we place on “stuff”, and focus on the things that matter most. As you can probably guess, shopping today is the LAST thing I would consider, and wish a peace-filled shopping experience to all those who brave the shopping malls today.
Brian & Myles McCullough