Science Explains Why You Lose Your Sh*t On Black Friday

Flickr / Powhusku

If you’re one of those people who shop on Black Friday, we first want to say that we’re both terrified of and intrigued by you. Despite Cyber Monday making wheeling and dealing an easy online activity, many people still prefer to shop in person. And it’s no surprise that Black Friday brings out the worst in people, from stealing items out of someone else’s cart to ripping down displays. But why? Well, science has an explanation.

Researchers from Indiana University surveyed 189 Black Friday shoppers about the behavior they witness as well as their own behavior throughout that intense day. The participants, who were primarily female, white and educated, admitted to some stereotypical Black Friday behavior like screaming at store workers and getting into fights with other shoppers.

Sharron Lennon, the lead researcher and a professor in the merchandising program at Indiana University, speculates that the root of the issue lies within the retail-consumer relationship. In her opinion, the United States retail-consumer relationship is defined by an equitable exchange that results in chaos when consumers feel that the relationship has been violated.

Essentially, when consumers feel that they are promised a particular doorbuster or sale and are denied it at the checkout or can’t find the marked-down item, they are most likely to misbehave and disrespect that retail-consumer relationship.

Flickr / Diario Critico Venezuela

In a follow-up study, Lennon surveyed 267 more Black Friday shoppers on why they’re likely to act out in a store and found the same prevalent reason: the stores weren’t providing what they promised. “The more they perceived the retailer situation to be inequitable, the more consumer misbehavior they displayed,” Dr. Lennon said in the study.

So, maybe it’s not the other shoppers’ attitudes after all (though they could certainly make the situation worse). If stores aren’t giving consumers exactly what they promised, shoppers (or you, if you indulge in the Black Friday tradition) are likely to lose their shit pretty quickly.

A word of stress-reducing advice from us: just stick to Cyber Monday shopping and skip the fuss.