To those who wait in line for Black Friday sales, shop online on Singles Day, or imagine waiting in line outside their local department store on Boxing Day for the “real bargains,” I can tell you that you are not alone. Anyone in their thirties who wants to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour, anyone in their thirties who is desperate to get tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, and everyone in Melbourne who will sleep outside for days to get tickets to the AFL grand final are all victims of the same fundamental psychological factors. Even if the stimuli are fairly modern, these reactions have changed throughout millennia.
The Importance of Belonging and Scarcity
If you give in to the temptations of “it’s finally here,” “get in before you miss out,” or “hurry, these offers expire at midnight,” try not to be too hard on yourself. It’s an evolutionary phenomenon that serves a practical purpose.
As a species, we tend to believe that our desires should align with those of the majority. We also hold the belief that something must be valuable if it is rare. For the simple reason that everyone else wants it, and wants it immediately.
Our species thrive in communities. Even while we prefer to believe that we’re all capable of thinking for ourselves, the truth is that we can’t evaluate each action we take independently. Therefore, we seek the opinions of others to guide our decision-making. We are quick to follow the lead of our “in-group” when it comes to purchasing trendy clothing. To a certain extent, I agree. Sheep, though dressed fashionably, are still sheep.
Rest assured, that is not something to worry about. The so-called attitude object, or the thing about which we develop sentiments, determines whether or not we engage in this behavior.
Some adults may be the same people who spend hundreds of dollars on opera tickets to witness a performance around the world, and they criticize the “crazy” kids who wait in line to buy new phones or footwear.
We make peace with this procedure by telling ourselves we are not followers and that we have reasoned independently to explain our acts, which is funny, but true. We control our inflated sense of self-importance by convincing ourselves that we are more level-headed, reasonable, and thoughtful than our peers. It helps us rationalize our crazy choices more easily. Another aspect unique to the retail industry is at play while discussing sales.
Depletion of Ego
Our sense of self-worth takes a hit whenever we enter a crowded shopping mall, what with all the flashing lights, loud music, hard floors, people, and general stimulation. The same phenomenon happens when we go online and are bombarded with ads that claim “four other people are looking at this product right now” and massive volumes of data.
You won’t magically transform into a more modest and considerate person the moment you get rid of your ego. In psychology, we use this word to express how, under pressure, reasonable thought processes can break down. Despite some concerns about the accuracy of ego depletion descriptions, it is generally true that excessive stimulation impairs judgment. All that activity, bright lights, and music isn’t simply the mall ringing in the sales; it’s also a strategy to elicit an emotional response from you based on factors like social conventions, FOMO, and the ritual of the sale.
According to studies in psychology, people have a terrible knack for seeing into the future. Maybe it’s just that we put too much stock in our ability to foretell the future; after all, we base our future emotions on how we feel about things right now. “Affective forecasting” is what psychologists term this.
Therefore, we tend to purchase necessities when we are “in” the midst of a deal. All the other stuff we’ve purchased, though, are being discounted.
“Anticipated regret” is a psychological phenomenon that affects us as well. This happens when we look forward and realize that we should have seized the opportunity when it came. We feel the feelings that go along with the anticipation and anxiety that come with thinking about what’s to come.
The idea that we will come to regret not purchasing an item immediately is known as anticipated regret. Daniel Himbrechts/AAP
We also expect societal impacts. Anticipated jealousy occurs when we think other individuals might receive what we are considering purchasing and we start to wish we had it too.
As a whole, sales elicit a wide variety of emotional reactions, and they are generally (and temporarily) effective. Because we seldom prepare for sales, we are more likely to give in to the subtle proddings of marketers when we are frazzled, rushed, and attempting to juggle ten tasks at once. All of these reactions are similar to a plethora of other customs that humans follow.
Rituals like Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day help people feel more connected to the social world. Even though these gatherings feature material consumption, they also foster a feeling of camaraderie. Humans seek rituals and community through the things they do; when other communal institutions, like churches or strong familial and neighborhood ties, fail, we seek out ways to substitute them.
Black Friday sales are an example of the same fundamental principle in action. The salespeople are using our need to engage in rituals for their ends. Instead of providing us with the chance to partake in the more fulfilling traditions of holidays like Christmas or even Halloween, sales are just transactional and aim to sell us something.
Given This, What Are Our Options?
To keep from succumbing to these mental inclinations, you can:
1. Decrease Velocity
Take it easy. That’s the greatest piece of advice I can offer. You might be surprised at the difference in the quality of decision-making when you give yourself time to deliberate before responding. To get you to react based on emotions rather than logic, marketers aim to hasten the decision-making process.
Consult a buddy (ideally one who won’t enable you too much) before making a purchase. Related to the first piece of advice, this one makes you think deeper.
3. Make a Wish List
Making a wish list and setting a budget is the greatest method to tackle sales, as tedious as it is, if you’re attending the sale to save money. And be ready to leave if anything isn’t quite right.
4. Take it Easy
A more reasonable decision is more likely to come out of a calm mindset, so try listening to soothing music or just taking a few deep breaths.
5. Remember That Salespeople Aren’t on Your Side
The salesperson is not on your side. Keep that in mind. Their beauty belies their primary function: to encourage purchase. According to reciprocity theory, one effective sales tactic is to make people forget that they are dealing with a business rather than a social event. You are under no obligation to purchase a product just because a salesperson is kind or offers you a discount.
6. Walk Away
Putting an item in your virtual shopping basket and then leaving the page is a smart move when shopping online. On the internet, algorithms frequently send you even better discounts (though this isn’t always the case when it comes to Black Friday specials).