Americans show they continue to love bargains

Posted: Nov. 29, 2012 9:54 am Updated: Dec. 20, 2012 10:17 am


THERE WERE no serious shopping shenanigans in Quincy during the Black Friday rush for bargains -- just long lines outside stores and at check-out registers and some weary shoppers by day's end -- but that was not the case everywhere.

In Tallahassee, Fla., a the couple was shot in a dispute over a parking place. The suspects, another man and woman, have been charged with attempted murder, according to the Associated Press, after the female suspect shot the couple after demanding "everything" in the female victim's purse.

In Lithonia, Ga., a suspected shoplifter died when employees and a contract security officer "subdued" him outside a Wal-Mart. A "physical altercation" took place, police said, when the man was followed outside.

Sometimes shopping mania overcomes common sense and common courtesy. And when everyone is scrambling in the "fun" of scoring bargains, it's not surprising that someone occasionally gets hurt -- or worse.

What do such events say about us, not just about our ability to disregard others in the quest for stuff, but about our inability to not behave like rabid animals in the process?

Researchers, including Jane Boyd Thomas, professor of marketing at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., say Black Friday shopping is less about bargains than the psychology of bargains.

Laura Brannon of Kansas State University goes deeper into the psyche to explain the allure of crowds and competition on Black Friday: Shoppers get caught up in the actions of others.

"If you have five people stand on a busy street corner and look up in the air, rest assured, most passersby will stop and look up as well because they'll assume there's something to look at," she told a Huffington Post reporter. Brannon says we all fall prey to "social proof," meaning that if other people are interested in something, we use that as evidence that it must be good and desired.

This year, Black Friday sales topped $1 billion, perhaps an indicator of consumer confidence or maybe just a hint that Americans love a bargain, even for something we didn't know we wanted until we saw 50 other people grabbing for it.