A Deluge of "Deals"

I spent the greater part of my weekend unsubscribing from email lists I didn't even know I'd signed up for. 'Tis the season for a deluge of "deals" junking up my inbox.

One clothing company sent me TWELVE identical emails over the long weekend--that's three emails per day!--advertising their buy-one-get-one sale.

Another has sent me daily "Black Friday Countdown" emails since November 1st.

And then this morning, after I thought I'd unsubscribed from everything that could be unsubscribed, the Cyber Monday emails started rolling in.

The deals! In previous years, I would have gone wild, justifying my spending spree as "stocking up" on Christmas gifts or things I would have bought eventually anyway. I would have felt smug in my confidence that I, unlike those other consumers, wasn't buying things I didn't need just because they were on sale, but was strategically optimizing my purchasing power.

But are holiday deals really even deals? Many manufacturers specifically make lower quality products that appear almost identical to their typical product, but have different SKUs, to sell on the cheap during Black Friday sales (as the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true...). Same goes for outlet stores, though those will dupe you year 'round.

Some retailers jack up their prices for a few months before the big sale so they can disguise a paltry discount as a massive one.

Online shoppers might encounter a hybrid of the two scams: Amazon has been known to create new SKUs for existing products to fool price-tracking apps that rely on previous pricing data to let customers know whether the markdown they're getting is actually a bargain. A $50 product that's been around forever, suddenly becomes a brand new $100 product being sold for half off! HALF OFF!

I try not to be cynical in general (more difficult than it sounds--cynicism is my default factory setting), as I've found it makes me a significantly less happy person. But it's really hard not to be cynical about the post-Thanksgiving consumer trap. It was bad enough when it was just one day, but now it lasts a week or more.

I will note that some Black Friday deals are legitimate, provided you do your research. But the advertisements are exhausting. I can live with TV, magazine, and billboard ads, but emails feel intrusive to me (as do targeted web ads, but AFAIK, there is no way to get rid of those).

So I wasted hours individually unsubscribing from each offending email list (I don't know why unroll.me stopped working for me, but it did), a small and ultimately meaningless gesture, but a satisfying one nonetheless. Happy Cyber Monday to me.


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