Here's How Retailers Are Manipulating You on Black Friday

iStock.com/andesr
iStock.com/andesr

For many people, one of the best parts of Thanksgiving is grabbing a newspaper to check out the retail circulars for Black Friday deals. The internet has influenced this tradition to an extent—many of the Black Friday ads are leaked online days or weeks in advance—but there’s still an undeniable psychological pull behind this national shopping day. For some retailers, the holidays can make up roughly a third of their annual revenue, with consumers spending $720 billion on Black Friday. Clearly, they have mastered the art of prying open our wallets.

How do they do it? According to a recent piece by Chavie Lieber at Vox, Black Friday is an exercise in shopper manipulation. Retailers typically begin by blanketing their email lists with notices of early sales beginning in late October and November, squeezing in valuable extra weeks out of the shopping season. Known as “Christmas creep,” it promotes Black Friday less as a single day and more of a month-long atmosphere.

Retailers also depend on promoting a level of anxiety among shoppers by depicting deals as being singular or exclusive. Insisting a deal is only good on a certain day or window of time creates a sense of urgency—even if that deal might crop up elsewhere during the year. Special “deals” might actually be just a method of creative pricing. Buy One, Get One, or BOGO, infers two items for the price of one, for example, but buying one item at regular price might not be much different than buying two on sale another time. Still, consumers are primed to respond to “free” without stopping to think if they’d consider the list price for the single item a good deal without the bonus.

A 2017 Money.com report made mention of the fact that many BOGO deals and other promotions aren’t exactly novel. Stores often repeat the same deals from one year to the next, making sure the economics of their promotions are in line with their financial goals.

Despite the hyperbole and convenience of online shopping, consumers still seem to make a ritual out of going out on Black Friday. (A 2017 survey estimated 25 percent of shoppers will head out to fight the crowds.) It’s less about the desire for deals than the competitive nature of the day. Snagging a deal with perceived exclusivity is satisfying. So is heading back to your car with bags of stuff you may never have bought otherwise.

Shoppers that are task-oriented feel a sense of fulfillment when they get rung up for an advertised deal. Social shoppers actually enjoy the crowds and feel a sense of camaraderie with bargain-hunters.

How you feel about Black Friday depends on what you’re looking to get out of it. If you’re after once-in-a-lifetime deals, you might be disappointed to find that you can save money during other times of the year. But if you treat the phenomenon as a challenge or a social gathering, then you’re likely to walk out of a store happy. If you're upbeat about having overspent, then retailers—and all of their subtle psychological tricks—have done their job.

[h/t Vox]

What Happens to Leftover Campaign Funds When a Candidate Drops Out?

Alek_Koltukov/iStock via Getty Images
Alek_Koltukov/iStock via Getty Images

As of February 2020, more than 1000 individuals had registered to run for president in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, though you've probably only ever heard a fraction of their names. But as Election Day looms closer, and the state primaries continue to decide the frontrunners, more of the most visible candidates will officially bow out of the election. So what happens to all the leftover campaign funds when a candidate drops out?

One thing's for sure: Upset candidates can't console themselves by putting the dough toward a new yacht and sailing off to recuperate. The Federal Election Commission has strict rules about what federal candidates can and can't do with leftover campaign money, and the biggest directive is that they can't pocket it for personal use.

Here's what a campaign committee is allowed to do with any lingering cash: it can donate the funds to charities or political parties; it can contribute $2000 per election to other candidates; and it can save the money in case the candidate chooses to run again. However, those regulations don't apply to the relatively new super PACs (Political Action Committees); this is only the third election where they have played a role, and there are currently no rules to stipulate what happens to that money beyond that it cannot go to fund another federal candidate. Much of that money tends to be returned to its original donors, used to wrap up the failed campaign, or donated to back a state-level candidate. The goal, however, is always to spend all of that money.

Running a campaign is an expensive proposition—Barack Obama spent nearly $750 million on his 2008 White House bid, and in 2012 he spent $985 million on reelection while challenger Mitt Romney spent $992 million—and insufficient cash is often a reason campaigns go belly up.

As for winning (or sometimes losing) politicians, they'll often put their leftover funds toward their next race. If they choose not to run, they have to abide by the same FEC rules. Wonder why this law is in effect? Until 1993, U.S. Representatives who took office before January 8, 1980, were allowed to keep any leftover campaign cash when they retired, but a study showed that a third of Congress kept and spent millions in campaign donations on personal items like clothing, jewelry, artwork, personal travel, and dry cleaning. Embarrassed, Congress passed a law negating this custom for the House; the Senate already had provisions in place so this wouldn't happen.

In reality though, officials can usually find a way to make that cash still work for them (and state laws differ from federal ones). After Chris Christie won reelection as New Jersey's governor in 2014, his campaign was granted permission to use some of its remaining war chest to cover the legal fees Christie incurred during the Bridgegate scandal. And this was well before he dropped $26.7 million on his failed 2016 presidential bid.

An earlier version of this article originally ran in 2012.

Here's What Happens to New Cars at a Dealership That Don't Get Sold

welcomia/iStock via Getty Images
welcomia/iStock via Getty Images

It’s 2020, which means new car models have already started rolling into dealerships and taking their positions in gleaming showrooms. What happens to the “old” models, which fall into a gray area between not-quite-used and no longer new?

According to Reader’s Digest, brand-new cars that fail to find a forever home have a few different fates. One place they can’t go is back to the manufacturer: Once a dealer purchases an inventory of cars from, say, Toyota, the vehicles are theirs. Instead, dealers may look outside of their local market to see if there’s a demand for the make and model they have on hand. A two-door sedan might not have found a buyer in one town, but there might be someone else 50 miles away looking for one.

If they can’t find a buyer close to the retail price, they might consider offering the car at an employee discount—as much as 20 percent—to customers. They might also offer financing incentives to make the deal more attractive.

Dealers typically hang on to new cars for about two years. After that, they begin to grow concerned that customers might assume there’s something wrong with a vehicle that’s been loitering on the lot for so long. Once it finally loses that new car smell, it might go to a dealer auction, where buyers can pick up cars for resale. Some of the cars will wind up in smaller lots, where there’s no pressure to offer a fleet of brand-new models.

Auctions take a percentage of the sale, though, so dealers already discounting the car might take a loss. You might also see a nearly-new car used as a loaner for the dealer’s service department or sold to a rental car company.

One thing is for certain: Dealers don’t like having old model year cars on the property. Because of the need for discounts or other incentives, dealers spent an average of $1100 in incentives per vehicle in 2019 to move 2018 models out the door.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER