Black Friday shopping a high-stress bargain

Retail during the peak season is tough on stressed-out workers and patrons alike

The holiday season can be a particularly stressful time for everyone.

This is for a myriad of reasons, including financial constraints and the pressure to find perfect gifts for family and friends.

These stresses can be greatly amplified by the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, usually beginning with Black Friday.

Black Friday is one of the biggest retail shopping days of the whole year. According to data from the Retail Council of Canada’s Holiday Shopping Survey 2019, 43 per cent of Canadians intend to shop Black Friday deals this year, and 32 per cent of Canadians plan to shop online for Cyber Monday.

But what is this surge in pressure to buy things and spend money doing to our mental health?

Holiday shopping itself has a definite effect on our brains. When we are surrounded by pressure to spend and are manipulated by retail and online marketing to “hurry while quantities last” and take advantage of the “last chance to save 60 per cent,” we are coerced into making an on-the-fly decision about our hard-earned money.

When we give in and buy non-essential things that we desire in the moment, our brains anticipate this as a reward and we then experience a rush of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with addiction. However, this leaves a chemical imbalance in our brains which can leave us feeling a need to bring back the rush and in turn leading to overspending and even shopping addiction in the most extreme cases.

According to PwC Canada, Canadian consumers plan to spend an average of $1,593 on expenses this holiday season, including gifts.

Shopping centres and retail stores are a common source of worry during the holiday season, not just for shoppers but for retail employees as well.

Retail employees report higher levels of emotional distress such as anxiety and irritability as compared to other professions.

This leaves employees feeling meaningless, with the end result being workers who have to deal with deep depression and who are barely able to function.

There is a multitude of retail horror stories out there told by past and current workers, and the holiday season can certainly bring out some extreme emotions in people.

As someone who has worked in retail for years, I have seen a stark personality shift in a lot of my colleagues at this time of year, and in customers as well.

Tensions are high and retail employees must work hard to manage the higher volume of customers who also tend to be stressed out during this season from all the demands and expectations.

This can cause customers’ stresses to be directed toward retail workers as they may become inpatient if they are shopping at a busy store and can be especially snarky when discounted prices are involved, or rather when the amount of the discount is not satisfactory.

Perhaps if instead of feeling pressured to spend more during the holidays we embraced spending less, we could eliminate some of the headache of the holidays. Opting for less expensive and more personal or handmade gifts may be good options for people wanting to bring more meaning to gift giving and wanting to contribute less to the commodification of the holidays.

If we focus more on spending time with our loved ones instead of spending our hard-earned cash, we may have an easier time keeping our cool.

Then perhaps we can really enjoy the season and make the best of this time.

It can be hard to find balance, but it is crucial that we make time for ourselves and take care of our needs amid the chaos.