The calendar that's geared towards consumption

We need to regulate our urge to splurge on occasions such as Black Friday, White Friday and Blue Monday, writes Justin Thomas

Shoppers with their arms full walk to their cars during the Black Friday sales at a store in California. Mark Ralston / AFP
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Black Friday, known as White Friday in the UAE, is closely followed by Cyber Monday, then Black Eye Friday and finally Blue Monday. The world's calendar of consumption is becoming ever­more eventful and colourful. Unfortunately, with consumption comes overconsumption and with overconsumption comes consequences.

Black Friday has become renowned for outrageous consumer misbehaviour. In the United States it is the busiest shopping day of the year, a day when retailers offer huge discounts to kick-start the shopping season. The origins of the day’s name are debated. Some suggest the black prefix relates to the thick cloud of smog created by all the extra traffic, while others assert that it’s an accounting reference: the day when retail trading accounts shift from red (loss) to black (profit).

The dark side of Black Friday is the frenzy and violence that occurs on the day. We've seen headlines such as Girl trampled in Black Friday Wal-Mart Crush, Man stabbed during Black Friday event and Toys 'R' Us shooting leaves two dead.

The incidents are so numerous that in 2008 a group of concerned people set up a website called blackfridaydeathcount.com. I'm fairly sure that the UAE's White Friday didn't witness any stampedes, stabbings or pepper sprayings.

After Black Friday comes Cyber Monday. This relative newcomer to the consumer calendar is the day when online retailers offer enticing discounts aimed at boosting online consumerism.

The tactic has worked so well that last year Cyber Monday became America's biggest e-commerce sales day ever. Unlike Black Friday, it was also free from violence. To highlight this point, fans of the internet set up the spoof website called cybermondaydeathcount.com. The count presently stands at 0 dead, 0 injured.

Cyber Monday is, however, associated with a hefty spike in cyber crimes. For criminals, it is like phishing in a barrel.

Fast forward about three weeks and the next date on the calendar of consumption and overconsumption is Black Eye Friday. The last Friday before Christmas, this is the date when those celebrating the festival usually hold their annual office parties.

Black Eye Friday takes its name from the violence and accidents that frequently occur after people consume too much alcohol.

It tends to be one of the busiest nights of the year for pubs, clubs and bars. In Britain, it is also the busiest night of the year for paramedics. This year, it falls on December 23.

Finally, as the festive season fades and the credit card bills start to arrive, so too, allegedly, does Blue Monday. The idea is that this is the saddest day of the year – at least in England and Wales. A rather cryptic formula suggests that Blue Monday will typically fall on the third Monday of January, so the next one will be on January 16.

Based on an analysis of Twitter data by our team at Zayed University and Masdar, Sunday, ­July 5 was the unhappiest day last year. Should we call that Blue Sunday?

There is no hard science behind Blue Monday, and the idea was further discredited when it was alleged that it was the creation of a travel company just to convince consumers that January was the perfect time to jet off for a winter sun holiday.

Black, white or blue, it’s really all about the green – money. To avoid debt and ugly, wasteful, overconsumption, we need to regulate our urge to splurge, especially in the face of campaigns that have been cleverly crafted to spark consumer feeding frenzies. Just say “yes” to less excess.

Dr Justin Thomas is an associate professor at Zayed University

On Twitter: @DrJustinThomas