Cornell University experts explore wages, happiness and realistic deals ahead of Black Friday

The National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend $630 billion this holiday season, starting online and in stores Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Three researchers at Cornell University can discuss a variety of issues related to the retail frenzy – from the impact of material possessions on happiness to the unrealistic perceptions of Black Friday deals.

All experts are available for interviews on campus, by telephone, and in our ISDN or television studios.


Tom Gilovich: Pursuit of material possessions bad recipe for well-being
Gilovich is a professor of psychology at Cornell University’s College of Arts & Sciences who studies behavioral economics, experiential and material consumption, and everyday judgment and decision-making.

Gilovich says:

“Study after study has shown that connecting with other people greatly contributes to happiness, and that the pursuit of material possessions undermines it.

“Now that Black Friday has been moved up to Thursday evening and intruded into Thanksgiving itself, we have a situation in which people truncate one experience that tends to increase happiness – such as a leisurely dinner with friends and loved ones, and the contemplation of all there is to be grateful for — in order to seek out another experience that tends to diminish it – such as a competitive rush to grab the best deals on material goods. This is not a great recipe for well-being.”


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David Just: Perceptions of Black Friday deals don’t always meet reality
Just is a behavioral economist at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He uses the tools of psychology and economics to examine important ways in which misconception and emotion can drive economic decisions.

Just says:

“Consumers love Black Friday because of the perception of deep discounts on virtually everything, but those perceptions are not always reality. Retailers have become adept at leading nerved up and somewhat distracted consumers to feel like they must buy now to get an extraordinary deal. They don’t always have the chance to figure out whether that deal is really all that good.

“The big barrier is getting consumers in the store – once they are there, you want them to buy everything on their list.”


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Kate Bronfenbrenner: Low-wage workers more likely to raise voices and awareness near Black Friday
Bronfenbrenner is a senior lecturer and the Director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Her teachings and research focuses on union and employer strategies in organizing and bargaining in the global economy.

Bronfenbrenner says:

“Black Friday reflects where we see both the worst and the best new trends in the global economy come in their most stark terms.  The growth and vulnerability of the precarious low wage workforce is exemplified as retailers across the board force workers to work every imaginable shift at night, weekends, and holidays; with no posting, premium pay and usually no legally required breaks and overtime, safety protections, or minimum wage. This happens at the same time as the rest of the workforce, whose wages have stagnated for more than three decades are lured to give up their family holidays by sale prices on consumer goods they otherwise could not afford.

“The positive news for workers is that Black Friday has also become a day when the same workers who suffer the worst conditions during these holiday weekends are those most likely to stand up and make their voices heard with the support of community and consumer allies. Black Friday Strikes and demonstrations for $15 and a union have grown each year to become first national and then international movements since the first Black Friday strikes occurred in November 2012 when following the fast-food walk outs in October. Walmart retail and warehouse workers went on strike on Black Friday, and fast-food port workers followed right behind them.

“The ‘Fight for $15’ has spread to every industry and sector of the economy with low wage workers from the public sector to adjunct faculty and has resulted in wage gains, legal victories, and union organizing wins large and small.  It is a huge and daunting struggle that these workers, worker centers, and unions take on, but the very fact that they are actively engaging in this fight and making progress is a sign that the environment has shifted.”



For interviews contact:
Daryl Lovell
Office: (607) 254-4799
Mobile: (607) 592-3925