Ever notice how the color black tends to be a sign of evil? “The Dark Side,” the black plague, and darkness are all examples of the mysterious danger of black. Perhaps this is why so much crime takes place on “Black Friday,” the day when millions of people trade hours of sleep for hours standing in line. I think it is safe to say that Black Friday sprouts all sorts of danger.
What makes Black Friday so “black” and dangerous anyhow? Could it be the pavement thousands of people trample over to get to their favorite stores? Or the fact that it begins at 4 a.m. which is a time when most crime rates skyrocket and the light of the day disappears? Or perhaps it is the emotional and adrenaline rush of getting a good bargain that drives people to insanity. Whatever the actual reason, I feel like the combination of ideas sets the tone.
The name “Black Friday” was originally used as a sign of the day when the stores begin operating “in the black,” rather than in the red (stock-market terms for those of you who don’t know). Although this was the humble beginnings of the phrase, today’s connotation brings about a whole new meaning. Most people would define Black Friday as a 24-hour period of “shoppingpalooza” the day after Thanksgiving. The day is also known as a time when stores slash prices in half for early Christmas shoppers.
As the name has evolved so have the weekdays around it, for instance, some people have stopped calling Thanksgiving “Thanksgiving,” and now refer to it as “Gray Thursday.” This is probably because stores are starting sales earlier and earlier. Research showed that most customers would rather stay up late to go shop rather than wake up early, which is why Wal-Mart will be kicking off Black Friday this year at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
As if this isn’t enough to change the name of the holiday to Gray Thursday, there’s more. Halloween weekend of 2010 Sears held a Black Friday Sale to get an early start on some business. But even Sears was late compared to Target, who held a “Black Friday in July Sale” months earlier. How could this outrage get any crazier? Well, this is where the marketing folks get to be creative.
If the early bird gets the worm, what do the laggards eat? That’s what retailers asked each other as they began the invention of “Cyber Monday,” the Monday after Thanksgiving, Gray Thursday, and Black Friday. Cyber Monday is the high-tech cousin of Black Friday. For customers who want the great deals but hate the late nights, long lines and fighting crowds, Cyber Monday is the answer to a prayer.
Shop.org coined the phrase in 2005 with a press release claiming increased sales for retailers on this day. As the trend has caught on, more and more retailers are making special online deals for this day of the year. In 2010 comScore reported $1028 million (excluding travel) spent online during Cyber Monday, which was the highest spending day of the year. Although it is still in the beginning stages of familiarity, trends like this are what set Cyber Monday headed in the direction of long-term loyalty with American consumers.
With all this shopping madness taking place within a five day period, sales aren’t the only thing taking an increase. Criminals around the nation have this day circled on their calendar months in advance. One of the most severe types of fraud over the holiday season is receipt fraud. While cashiers are careful to validate money and credit cards, return receipts are most commonly skipped over. This is a widespread problem growing in the retail industry.
With increasing technology receipts are becoming more and more available for replication. This being the issue, many criminals can print up tons of fake receipts, and hand them in at different stores in exchange for cash or a gift card, (a very common practice to most retailers.) Fortunately, retailers are beginning to catch on to this trend and turn to alternate forms of dealing with returns and exchanges.
One such form comes from BrandWatch Technologies, a company who specializes in helping brands protect themselves against fraud. If you’ve ever seen the yellow highlighters cashiers use to validate money, you have seen a form of this technology. However with the changing times, BrandWatch has now come out with a marker that detects fraudulent receipts brought in by criminals. Slowly but surely some brands are turning to this for protection from theft.
Other companies have taken different routes to fraud. One of the most common is refunding money directly back onto the credit card from which it was originally taken. A few weeks ago I was making a return for my mother while anticipating the store credit coming in return. Sadly for me, I found out the money was instead replaced to my mother’s credit card which was nestled safely in her purse two hours away. Although I was let down, I now realize how great this change of procedure is in helping prevent criminal acts against innocent people and retail stores.
With one week and some change till Black Friday, I hope that this article helps you make informed and educational decisions next week. Spot out the best deals, whether it is Gray Thursday, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, make sure you get the most bang for your buck. From night crawlers to earlier risers you have your choice of shopping days, and if you are more of a techno-fan you can relax in your pajamas all weekend and hit the keyboard Monday morning at your leisure.
Save your receipts, watch your wallet, and thank your cashiers for checking your cash and i.d. Sure, it might take you a few extra seconds at the checkout, but without honest workers like these our favorite plastic cards and retail stores would be out of business and back “in the red,” which is the opposite effect this season is supposed to bring. Stay black and dangerous consumers!