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The Scary Things About Sales that Bring Out the Monster Consumer in Us

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wilfrid Laurier chapter.

If Black Friday sales have left your wallet a little lighter than you anticipated, you are not alone. Find out how sale events affect us on a neurological level to bring out the monster consumer in all of us and how to better prepare yourself for next time.

With Black Friday sales coming to a close, many of us may be looking at our wallets with mixed sentiments of success, regret and confusion. Your bank statement makes you think you need to alert the authorities because surely someone has stolen your information and they also have precisely your taste. Very suspicious. Or perhaps you abstain from giant sales and you’re feeling pretty victorious as your friends look a little panicked. On the other hand, you could have found some really great deals and stayed within your budget so you too are feeling on top of the world. For those of you who don’t fall into this category, here are some of the reasons sales like the ones on Black Friday bring out the consumerism monster in us.

The act of shopping has the end goal of “winning” by finding a unique item that you love and it’s even better if you happen to get a deal on it. This win releases serotonin which is a neurotransmitter known as the happy hormone. Research has found that the feeling of winning during shopping is quite similar to that of addiction which makes it difficult to rebound post-purchase and maybe when the regret seeps in. When sales come into play, our brains don’t go through our normal process of weighing the outcomes of our decisions, so it is no wonder we act so irrationally during sale events.

Have you ever walked through a mall and noticed a crowded store that seemed to be luring you in? Research has found that occasionally, the mere presence of other patrons in a store can make us spend more on brands. Our arousal levels increase in order to make our experience in the environment more intense. These co-patrons also alert us to something interesting at that location which makes us want to explore and take part.

Impulse buying also spikes during these sale events. These purchases take place when you get an urge that is difficult to resist, so it is mentally easier to give in to it rather than consider the regret you might have if you do not. The most important implication of large sales events is that they are connected to a pre-existing contributor to consumerism. The thrill of the hunt is one of the reasons individuals shop to begin with, and events like Black Friday intensify this. These sales challenge us to find the most impressive deal and put our hunting skills to the test. Personally, I am most susceptible to this because I always take more pride in a purchase if I got a good deal on it – so many of my friends feel the same way. Another reason to shop is for status. Sale events make it much easier to attain status-oriented products at a more affordable price, so it’s no wonder we feel an increased urge to browse our wish list items during these times.

There are also many shopping orientations to consider. These are individuals’ general attitudes toward and the perception of shopping. Some may see it as an unpleasant chore while others may see it as a fun social activity. The latter are known as recreational shoppers, and they represent the bulk of sales participants. Group pressure is a huge driver of consumerism and comes into play during sales events. In fact, when shopping with at least one other person, we make more unplanned purchases and browse more than we would alone. While this plays a role during in-person shopping, I think we can all agree that many of us would much rather scope out the deals from the comfort of our homes online. With the addition of inventory alerts and messages letting us know how many others have bought an item at the last minute, we are overwhelmed with information and pressured to act fast in online settings as well. Sale events rely heavily on consumers’ FOMO to apply time and social pressures. Flash sales and daily fluctuations in deals are meant to disarm us so we can have less time for rational thinking because we are so wired to not miss out on the deal.

As a marketing student, you would think I would be better equipped to manage such sales events, but I too have fallen victim. Although am I really a victim if I got a very cute waffle maker for 50% off? It is difficult to maneuver these events because we are so used to rationalizing our spending habits to avoid post-purchase dissonance that we often rationalize sales as a way to save money, even though there is always spending involved.

To better prepare for future sales, try to do some personal reflection on what kind of consumer you are and how sale events get to you or maybe share your tips with others if they don’t know. Here are some tips of my own to avoid getting sucked into the sale madness. Before a sale event comes up, make a list of things you need and want so you can actually look out for them. This is helpful in identifying when a perceived deal may be convincing you that you need something when you really don’t. Do this well before sales start filling your social media feeds to have a guide for yourself. Setting a budget is a good idea to ensure that you know how much you can afford to spend during the timeframe. Doing research is also well advised. It can help you establish whether a “deal” is real or not. Something maybe 30% off at one location, but still cheaper at full price from a different place. The slashing of prices with lower red ones next to them can be thrilling but be sure to keep an eye out for misleading “deals.” Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself for taking part in these events. It’s a social event that many others are taking part in too which makes it easy to get sucked into. With holiday shopping and post-holiday sales approaching, just remember to be respectful of the budgets and rules you put in place for yourself, be vigilant and reflect on purchases and have some fun along the way.


Dizik, A. (2016, November 24). Shopping a sale gives you the same feeling as getting high. BBC Worklife. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20161123-shopping-a-sale-gives-you-the-same-feeling-as-getting-high

Solomon, M. R., White, K., Dahl, D. W., & Main, K. (2020). Consumer Behaviour: Buying, Having, and Being (Canadian Edition) (8th ed.). Pearson Education Canada. https://online.vitalsource.com/books/9780135403136

Kaitlyn Electriciteh

Wilfrid Laurier '23

Kaitlyn is a fourth-year business student at Wilfrid Laurier University. She has completed her minor in North American Studies and is now working on her concentration in Marketing. Having started her own custom cakes business, she is obsessed with all things sweet and baked along with dance, literature and travel.