Fear of Missing Out and the Black Friday Madness

Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping day of the year, is just days away. This year, Friday, November 24th, will be the unofficial start of the Christmas season. Throngs of people will make their way to malls all across the country hoping to get some of the best deals on holiday gifts.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say people will act like crazed fans at a football game or soccer match. The news will show us scenes of people fighting over items, shoving each other out of the way to get to the hottest toys and trampling one another the moment stores open.

So much for the season of giving and the spirit of joy!

What causes normal people will do some very abnormal things in hopes of getting the best deal? Why would someone stand in line for hours waiting for a store to open when they could visit that same store any day of the week? And why to people forego sleep, getting up hours earlier than they have to on their day off? Fear of missing out.

Fear of missing out taps into scarcity, the psychological principle of influence that tells us people value things more when they’re rare or appear to be less available. Scarcity can be triggered by time constraints and competition for a limited number of items.

Black Friday naturally taps into time constraints because it only happens one day each year. Forego this shopping day and you might miss the best deals of the season! But then again, you might not have missed out because sales only seem to better as Christmas approaches and retailers look to unload the last of their holiday merchandise.

Nonetheless, over the years the lure of Black Friday has increased dramatically and retailers have taken advantage of the popularity of Black Friday by opening stores earlier and earlier each year. Some stores will open at midnight because Thanksgiving will be over and it will officially be Friday. If you don’t get there at midnight you might just miss out on some time sensitive deals!

When we hear the word “competition” we often think of athletic endeavors but competition isn’t limited to the sports arena. No, when it comes to shopping competition is alive and well, and retailers play on it in a big way.

Here’s how the competition part of scarcity works – no longer is it good enough to just get to a store because if you are not there when the store opens they might run out of the thing you wanted most. Limited availability is different than limited time so while you might have all day Friday to shop, certain items marked “While Supplies Last” or “Limited Availability” might be gone by the time you arrive at 5 AM or 6 AM. Can’t let that happen now, can you?

It’s amazes me that people respond as they do because little Johnny probably doesn’t remember that great toy you got him three years ago. You know, the one you stood in line at the mall at 4 AM to get? And sweet Sally probably can’t tell you which American Girl doll you got her when she was eight years old but it’s a good thing you stood in line for several hours to pay for it.

Here’s another eye opener. People will say, “But I saved $200!” Saving money is great but many of those same people wouldn’t drive across town to save $200 on a car because a $200 savings on a $20,000 car by comparison isn’t worth the extra time and effort.

So, they spend four hours negotiating a car deal, could go across town and maybe spend another four hours to save $200, but they don’t. Sure, it’s an eight-hour investment but many of those same people will spend more than 12 hours at the mall just to save $200.

I’m not telling you not to shop. I know for some people, Black Friday shopping has become as much a holiday tradition as Thanksgiving, getting a Christmas tree or sending holiday cards. But I challenge you to consider if it’s really worth all the hassle – the lost sleep, extra time at the mall, fighting traffic, searching for a parking space, the disappointment when someone bought the last item you wanted, etc. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Would I normally respond this way? Do I want to respond this way?” Then decide what you want to do.

If you know you’re going to give into the madness then I’ll help you save some time by sharing with you the Black Friday web site. Go to this site to get a sneak peek at some of the deals that will be out there. Before all the holiday madness starts I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and a safe time no matter what you decide to do.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 100,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

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Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer at influencePEOPLE
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is a sales trainer, coach and consultant whose specialty is applying persuasion and influence in sales and customer service situations. He is one of 20 individuals in the world who currently hold the CMCT designation. Brian’s blog, Influence PEOPLE, is followed by people in 200 countries and made the Online Psychology Degree Guide Top 30 Psychology Blogs in 2012.
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