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Our View: Black Friday, the American sales gimmick that just keeps on giving

black friday sale signs

Black Friday is a new arrival to Cyprus, where we did not know the meaning of the term until a few years ago. It is an American sales gimmick, held on the fourth Friday in November and has spread to most of the developed countries. In the US it was traditionally the Friday that followed Thanksgiving Day and marked the start of the Christmas shopping season. Since 2005 it has been the year’s busiest shopping day in the US, emphatic proof of the marketing technique’s success.

In the last few years Black Friday has become a big thing in Cyprus as well, and it does not last for one day only. Shops have been advertising price reductions since last Friday, while others have been saying Black Friday price will last for another week. The tradition should perhaps be renamed Black Week or Black Fortnight in Cyprus, where shops have enthusiastically embraced this American tradition, because it has boosted sales during a relatively slow period.

This year, with prices on the rise and people forced to be more cautious in their spending, everyone will be looking for a good bargain. Proof of this has been the dozens of complaints already made to the consumer protection agencies. People have lodged complaints about peculiar price fluctuations, claiming the price of some products were increased and then ‘reduced’ to their original price. There were also claims of misleading advertising, stores trumpeting discounts of 70 per cent, based on the prices of very few items.

Complaints will be investigated, said an official from the consumer protection agency, adding that agency inspectors would be visiting shops to carry out checks of Friday. This was offered as reassurance to consumers as there is very little these so-called inspectors could do. They did not know what prices of items were two weeks ago so what would they be checking actually? By giving these assurances, officials are cultivating the idea that shops are intent on deceiving consumers, whom the state will protect with its inspectors.

The fact is that sensible consumers need nobody to protect them. They should know that Black Friday is a marketing gimmick, that shops have no obligation to cut prices on all their products nor is there a specified level of discount they have to offer. More importantly, no shop obliges anyone to buy its items and all purchase decisions are made by the consumer.

Ultimately the consumer will decide if a price reduction, big or small, real, or fictitious, makes a product worth buying. People must become smart shoppers and not expect the state to act as their protector. There will be bargains during Black Friday, perhaps not as many as advertised, but the smart shopper will find them.

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