Black Friday: consumer advocates warn of pitfalls

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The discount battle around Black Friday has also caught on in Austria and is lasting longer and longer. But the discounts are often not as high as expected.

Consumer advocates warn of traps and fake stores; NGOs criticise textile waste and poor working conditions in many production facilities in the Global South. Meanwhile, young people post their debt levels on TikTok.

Black Friday originates from the USA
Black Friday originated in the USA; the Friday after Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday in November. It is November 24 this year. In the United States, the weekend after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas shopping season. Online retailers follow suit with Cyber Monday. The discount battle is increasingly spilling over into Europe and Austria.

Tempting discounts are sometimes pure fraud
The benefits of special shopping days are controversial for both retailers and consumers. According to various surveys, more and more people in Germany are shopping on Black Friday, but whether they are saving anything is questionable. Consumer advocates caution that sometimes the alluring discounts are just scams and that the number of fake stores is also rising.

Marketing tricks
“Consumers should also not be swayed by marketing tricks such as countdowns or ‘strictly limited’ quotas,” recommends AK consumer advocate Christina Gruber. The alleged deal is much more expensive because additional expenses like shipping account for a sizable amount of the costs. The Vienna Chamber of Labour (AK) cautions that “criminals also use Black Friday to steal money and data from consumers with fraudulent fake store offers.”

Black Friday provides an impetus to buy
Black Friday, while promoting sales, is a downer for retailers. “Consumers get used to promotional prices and then perceive the current prices as too high in the medium and long term. Price promotions and campaign days are like drugs. They get retailers high in the short term but sick in the long term,” said Christoph Teller, Director of the Institute for Retail, Sales, and Marketing at Johannes Kepler University (JKU) Linz. Ernst Gittenberger of the JKU is likewise doubtful of the advantages for shops. The “actions” surrounding Black Friday will further impact the already declining margins, and the increase in spending will be eaten up by inflation. “So, real sales growth is not to be expected during the campaign days, and profit growth is unlikely anyway,” Gittenberger said.

Sales of 450 million euros are anticipated by the retail association for the next two days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to Rainer Will, Managing Director of the German Retail Association, this represents a decrease of approximately 7%, even though it is 10 million euros more than the previous year after accounting for inflation.

Black Friday represents “the fast pace of consumption and the tendency to hunt for bargains,” according to groups like Fairtrade. The costs are borne by the people who produce the clothing and textiles, and the effects are felt in the environment and the climate. “Wages are being squeezed, and environmental regulations are either disregarded or not sufficiently followed. And what people are not yet aware of is that the fast fashion industry not only depletes resources but also causes considerable CO2 emissions,” says Fairtrade Austria Managing Director Hartwig Kirner. According to surveys, clothing is at the top of the list of items bought on Black Friday.

A trend on the video platform TikTok shows where consumer mania can lead. Young people boast that they are up to five-figure sums in debt with the payment service Klarna. Under the hashtag #klarnaschulden, which already has over 70 million views, young people post videos explaining how much debt they have accumulated or want to pay for the goods they have ordered in installments.

  • source: k.at/picture: pixabay.com
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