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What is Black Friday?

The meaning of Black Friday varies drastically depending where you are in the World. In Australia Black Friday commemorates one of the worst bushfires in our history. Many people died, homes, farms and businesses lost with several towns being destroyed, as in completely wiped out. Black Friday is to remember one of the most devastating fires the world has seen.

So why is my inbox filling up with Black Friday promotions and how is it possible that there is such disrespect by celebrating the loss of life and communities with a mass of sales? How is it that marketers could have adulterated the term so that Black Friday instead refers to what they hope will be a frenzied sale. Yes you read right, they seem to have dismissed that Black Friday, in fact that any day labelled “black”, is a day to remember those lost, and those who survived tragic bushfires.

This can’t be right? How do they get away with it? Sadly because people don’t seem to think about it, or are too blind-sighted to care. While service based businesses are now jumping on board, it started with retailers wanting to give you a chance to buy their products, so they offer discounts or incentives to help you spend more money with them. The best part is that the real aim is to get you to fill your cart with stuff you didn’t know you needed, because these bargains will “never be seen again” (Think about how often you’ve heard that line before).

Now I’m not writing this to pass judgement on sales, although buying stuff you didn’t know you needed could be a post in itself. Businesses have sales – financial year sales, pre-Christmas sales, boxing day sales and sales because why not just have a sale Sale. So with so many other names for sales why can’t marketers come up with a name for a sale that doesn’t make people think about those who were lost in a fire? They could have a Big Friday Sale, November Sale or Anything Else You Want to Call it Sale. Calling it a Black Friday Sale is like saying we have no social conscious, we’re just after your dollars sale. Why have the marketers taken this path, dismissing the relevance of the Black Friday Fires?

Let’s break this down.


Black Friday Sales, where did they come from?

There is no single straight answer but it goes something like this

  • The fourth Friday in November, the day after Thanksgiving has been labelled Black Friday in America. It’s the beginning of the country’s Christmas shopping season
  • It’s been documented that in Philadelphia, Black Friday was used to describe crowds and traffic congestion that happened at the start of the Christmas shopping season
  • Or maybe the name was because of injuries that happened on the day from minor injuries to shootings over parking spaces and big-screen tv’s through to employees (note the plural) being  trampled to death in the stampede
  • Some would have you believe that it’s because it takes retailers from in the red to the black, as in turning a profit, but that’s not how the name was derived
  • If you go back far enough, Black Friday also refers to a stock market crash of 20 per cent and gold commodity prices sent dropping by 50 per cent.
  • In America it has been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005. So it’s definitely all about money.

Regardless of the origin of the name, when marketers refer to Black Friday they mean business and develop strategies to get your dollar. What’s worse is that some businesses, who you thought operated ethically in the way they sourced materials, manufactured their products or supported community, have thrown integrity out of the window to join this marketing hype. They’ve jumped on this bandwagon, totally disregarding our country’s history and the real meaning of Black Friday.


As conscious consumers, we should make a stand against this

If you think this incorrect use of the term Black Friday should change, the good news is there are actions you can take. There is a movement called “Buy Nothing Day”, which is an international day of protest against consumerism which is held on the same day as these USA-originated Black Friday Sales. So I invite you to join me by keeping your money in your wallet and participate by not participating. Then extend it because Black Friday Sales seems to have become a week of promotions, so don’t buy anything from any retailer who is on this thoughtless bandwagon.

If you want to take this further than just voting by keeping your dollar in your wallet and protest by spending a day without spending, then email retailers and online stores so they know that as a happy customer last week, they have now crossed the line. Email them and ask why they are disrespecting Black Friday and Australian history. If you love to write go for it, otherwise below is a draft might help you to get started.

I’ll be replying to the Black Sale emails I get and submitting online forms, as not all marketing emails can be replied to. I’ve had some positive acknowledgements so far, but in many cases change will happen after they’ve thought about it a number of times. So every email sent or conversation started will add up to make a difference.



I am writing in response to this promotional email because I am shocked that you would use the term “Black Friday” to market your business this way.

Black Friday refers to devastating fires where towns were wiped out and many people died. I am disappointed that a business that I thought was ethical because of its environmental and community focus could show such disrespect.

I hope that more consideration can be taken for our country’s history rather than jumping on the American bandwagon and that you might use a different marketing approach in the future.



(Note: This was sent to an Australian business that prides itself in community and environment, but you may delete that part if you don’t think it applies to the business you’re contacting)

I’d love to hear which businesses you contact and if you get any feedback from them. You can comment or email me at