The Madness that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Last week was Thanksgiving, a time that typically signifies feasting into a bloated comatose, spending time with crazy extended family and being grateful for the plentiful bounties bestowed to you this year.

Some years back, a marketing genius figured out that Thanksgiving was also a good time to start the holiday shopping season. Black Friday officially came about in the 1950’s and was the busiest shopping day of the year. Then Cyber Monday started in 2005 and retailers began really milking the week. Today, pre-and post-sales bookend both days.  Black Friday now starts on Thanksgiving, runs through “Cyber Weekend”, and then they extend through “Cyber Week”!

As an example, here’s a real-life inventory of emails from Groupon that I got over the past week.

Date Subject Line My Thoughts
Tuesday, 11/20 Early Access to Black Friday Deals! Doesn’t this undermine the actual Black Friday deals?
Wednesday, 11/21 We’re Just Going to Pretend Today is Black Friday See above
Thursday, 11/22- Thanksgiving Black Friday Doorbusters: This Email Loves ‘Em I guess doorbusters for Friday means they’re on Thursday
Friday, 11/23 –Black Friday BLACK FRIDAY: Don’t Snooze on Doorbusters!
Saturday, 11/24 ALERT: It’s Still Black Friday! News Flash, it’s now Saturday
Monday, 11/26- Cyber Monday Cyber Monday Doorbusters: One. Last. Day.
Tuesday, 11/27 EXTENDED: Cyber Monday Doorbusters Liar! It wasn’t One. Last. Day. yesterday
Old Navy inventing a new sales day: Cyber Tuesday

Old Navy inventing a new sales day: Cyber Tuesday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are Just Another Chance to Sell You Stuff

I used to work in marketing at an e-retailer, sending emails with very similar subject lines as Groupon. I’m well aware that this is the most important sales week in the entire year. We spent months planning and negotiating with partners for the best deals and then took shifts on Thanksgiving to make sure the madness and corresponding uptick in website traffic goes swimmingly. There was a lot of email, site and revenue monitoring dispersed between family time.

But I also know that even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday get the reps as the opportunity to score deals, it’s not the only. Don’t let marketers convince you that major deals are only available this week. Sales are actually a dime a dozen.

Depending on where you usually shop and what you usually buy, you’ll find comparable sales dropping throughout the year. Most major retailers have an annual sale (Amazon Prime day, Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale, Sephora’s Beauty Insider Appreciation sale) and so does just about every obscure US holiday. Department stores love President’s Day and Columbus Day.

But It’s So Fun!

As a former cheapskate and uber consumer, this was my favorite time of the year. I loved browsing deals, scrolling through e-commerce sites and even manually flipping through the Sunday paper catalogs. It was a mind-numbing but oh so exciting activity. I still enjoy getting those dopamine hits today- $60 Instant Pots, half-priced Amazon Echos and Google Homes, and rock bottom how-are-they-possibly-profiting $200 55” flat screen TVs, oh my!

The difference though, is that I don’t actually buy anything. In fact, the deals rile me up a little bit, hence this impassioned post. Unless something as been on my pre-determined list of must-buys built throughout the year, I can refrain from the 1-click order button.

How to Milk Them Instead

It’s hard not to get sucked into the hype. A lot of marketing dollars are spent during this time of the year to come up with pervasive ads aimed to rouse desire so you cave into temptation.

So how do you take advantage of these hot deals without succumbing to this BUY NOW pressure?

By planning accordingly. Keep track of large purchases you’ve wanted throughout the year and buy it at the next sale. Careful, deliberate consumption is a marketer’s worst nightmare.

marketer wiping his tears

Oh no! People aren’t impulse buying anymore!


As an example, here is stuff from my list.

  • Flat screen TV: I only watched Netflix on my laptop for 3 months until buying a TV on Black Friday a few years ago. Apparently, electronic manufacturers compromise on quality to make products especially for Black Friday, which is why electronics are so cheap. TV still works so *shrug*
  • 23&me ancestry and genetic testing: Regular price is $199 but I saw it drop to $129 on Black Friday/Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day
  • Embark dog ancestry and genetic testing: Considering this one. The deal is the same as the above for humans
  • Airbnb gift cards: I think Airbnb realized they didn’t need to discount their gift cards to get people to use the service, so I haven’t found any recent sales. Instead, I set up a deal alert on waiting for something to come up.

As a result, I haven’t yet bought anything yet this week though the Instant Pot and air fryer are sooo tempting.

Air Fryer: homemade fries are really the only thing I need this for


Instant Pot: so much hype from everybody about this. We got a chance to borrow one for about 6 months and only used it 3 times.


If I decide that we really do need more kitchen appliances, I’ll put them down on the list and wait for the next sale. Given that we’re getting closer and closer to Christmas, I can’t imagine deals coming to an end.

Did you buy anything this year? Got any strategies to share?