The great Black Friday scam

November 27, 2022
2 mins read

What are Black Friday’s origins and is it benefiting New Zealand shoppers with genuine bargain prices? PAT PILCHER reports.


While the media collectively wrung its hands over Black Friday shoppers’ contributions to inflation, none looked at what a complete and utter scam Black Friday was.

So, just what is this Black Friday malarky? Where did it come from? It originated in the US, marking the day following Thanksgiving. It has become one of the year’s busiest days for retailers offering big discounts to lure shoppers into stores. As with any tradition, there are many myths. One such myth is that Black Friday was derived from businesses running “in the red”. Then the day after Thanksgiving, sales saw them finally turn a profit, taking their balance sheets into “the black”. This is, however, not correct.

Black Friday started in the 1960s when cops in Philadelphia used “Black Friday” to describe the carnage from large numbers of tourists coming to do holiday shopping. The crowds created many problems for the boys in blue, who usually had to work longer shifts to deal with traffic chaos, accidents and shoplifting. Since then, like many other US traditions, it has been taken up by New Zealanders.

Origins aside, is Black Friday actually a rip-off? The short answer (at least in New Zealand) is an emphatic YES! The most telling example of this comes out of data obtained by the price comparison site, PriceSpy, which highlights dodgy retail practices.

In comparing data on their site, PriceSpy found that on Black Friday in 2021, a whopping one in 10 products listed on PriceSpy got a price increase in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. This was then “reduced on sale” for Black Friday. This wasn’t an isolated trend either. PriceSpy found that close to a fifth of all products they listed on Black Friday in 2021 had a price hike before the sale.

Unsurprisingly, New Zealanders’ trust in retailers appears to have taken a hit. A PriceSpy survey found that three out of five Kiwis don’t trust the discounts on offer on Black Friday and other similar discount periods like Cyber-Monday. Based on the above data, who can blame us, poor consumers, for feeling more than a little weary?

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to many. PriceSpy also found that discounts were, on average (for last year’s Black Friday “sale”), a stingy 5.62 per cent. That said, PriceSpy also found that of the items discounted for Black Friday in 2021, around 19 per cent had a discount of 10 per cent or more. Adding insult to injury, the microscopic deals for Black Friday compared poorly to consumer expectations. PriceSpy found 63 per cent of survey respondents expected discounts of up to 50 per cent on Black Friday, so it’s fair to say that there were more than a few cynical and pissed-off shoppers.

Further complicating things, PriceSpy found that the products which generated the most interest (which they say were smartphones) had a pathetic 4.32 per cent discount on Black Friday.

The Good Witchdoctor’s advice is simple. If there’s something you’re looking for a good deal on, do the research first. Compare and contrast prices before any sales, and never take a discount at face value. Sites like PriceSpy might help you find a decent deal, but researching before parting with any money and boning up on New Zealand’s consumer laws is a verily good idea indeed.


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Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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