Personal Finance

Black Friday 2020 – the Muslim guide

The day after Thanksgiving in the United States marks a day of retail frenzy. 

In a nutshell we’re talking about all the big retailers – both online and offline – discounting their prices. This trend has now spread to other parts of the world. 

In this article we’ll be discussing a few key points:

  1. Does the data suggest Black Friday is actually cheaper?
  2. What should your approach to Black Friday be, particularly as a Muslim.
  3. Is 2020 a year in which we are morally bound to spend more to help retailers out?
  4. We share 3 genuinely good deals from having scoured the web.
  5. Some Islamic etiquette reminders and fiqh trivia including whether it’s permissible to outbid somebody for something you really want.

The data behind Black Friday deals – cheaper or not?

I can almost guarantee that you’ve had this conversation with someone this week. Some people are adamant that Black Friday is a con. Retailers simply inflate prices in the run-up to Black Friday and then put them down. Others will swear by some bargain Black Friday deal they got.

The truth is, the jury is out on this one.

In the blue corner, we have the naysayers. They won’t accept that Black Friday is a genuinely good sale. This year, the prominent publication Which? has concluded, in the words of our (in)famous US leader, that Black Friday is fake news.

Based on extensive research they carried out in 2019, here’s a summary of their conclusions:

“The vast majority of products in the Black Friday 2019 sales had been the same price or cheaper on at least one occasion in the six months before or after the sale, including 85% that were the same price or less before the day”.

“While it’s normal for product prices to fall over time, we were surprised to find that 85% of those in our analysis were actually the same or even cheaper than their Black Friday price in the six months before the sale.”

“Just three of the products in our analysis – 1% – were at their cheapest price on Black Friday itself.”

“When we split our findings down by retailer, we found that at least 90% of the products we looked at in Currys’ and John Lewis’s Black Friday sales had been the same price or cheaper in the six months before.”

“We also found that 100% of products at AO.com, Argos, Currys and John Lewis were cheaper or the same price after Black Friday.”

You can read the full Which? report here.

IFG conclusion: we love data and we just can’t argue with the data here. That’s not to say you can’t get a great Black Friday deal, but as a rule you definitely shouldn’t feel pressured to buy something on Black Friday for fear that it won’t get back to that price. Very rarely is that the case.

What should a Muslim’s approach be?

No Friday can be black for a Muslim ( 😉 ).

In all seriousness though, there’s some really important points to bear in mind.

Firstly, from a pure personal finance approach, you should not spend on a whim. This sounds basic but it’s worth a reminder. Just ask yourself if you really need what you’re buying. If you can afford to buy things based on desire rather than need, then just ask yourself if this is really genuinely good value. You shouldn’t see Black Friday as an “excuse” to go crazy.

Secondly, Friday is an auspicious day. I don’t want to play religion police but we obviously shouldn’t spend all day shopping (even if it’s online). The Prophet (saw) said:

“The parts of land dearest to Allah are its mosques, and the parts most hateful to Allah are markets.” (Sahih Muslim 671)

We live in an online world and marketplaces had their own culture in the time of the Prophet which are very different to now – but it is still well worth noting this. We can probably be doing much more productive things on a Friday that will generate a greater return. Just remember to have your balance that’s all.

IFG conclusion: if you’ve been in the market for a particular item for a little while and you know for sure that you can get a great deal, then sure go for it. But don’t just spend for the sake of it. And remember that there are much more important things you can be doing with your time.

But wait, is this year not different? Should we not spend at shops as a form of charity?

There’s an interesting argument here. Given the year we have had, should we not view spending on Black Friday almost as a form of charity? Sure, the vaccine is around the corner, but companies across the spectrum have been hit hard in a huge way.

I was shocked this week when I saw news of British Airways literally selling off the china in a bid to get some cash in the coffers.

My thoughts on this are that we must always remember firstly our financial duties at home and to those around us. If you want a reminder of that, check out our article about what Islam says about finances in a marriage.

But assuming you do have the surplus cash and you genuinely feel that you can contribute a difference to the economy by spending a little more than usual, I think there is merit to that argument.

I believe that if you want to do this in a benevolent way, then consider buying gift cards. This, in many ways, is a bit like giving a loan to a company. You won’t be reducing from their inventory (which they can sell to someone else and take the money) but you’ll get your money’s worth a bit later down the line (when the economy has hopefully picked up).

This is a particularly good way of doing things if you are keen to support a friend or family member’s business. If you know someone who’s struggled who will not take money from you or where it’s inappropriate, buying a gift card for their store from them is a great balance.

As for whether you should prioritise big businesses or small businesses, I am pretty ambivalent. In this sort of crisis, everyone has been hit hard. We’ve been big stores go under too so just go with what your conscience tells you if you do want to deploy this particular strategy.

3 genuinely good deals

Despite the conclusion earlier that Black Friday isn’t all that, there’s no doubt some great deals to be had. We’ve scoured the web and asked around within our team to flush out some legit good deals. Here they are:

  1. 160gb data (plus unlimited calls & texts) with EE – £14. This is one where you’ll have to phone them and say you’ve heard about this deal. But one of our own team has done this and successfully got it. It’s a standard £20 deal on their website but they should apply a £6 discount if phone them.
  2. 2nd gen Ring doorbel – £59 here.
  3. LG AI DD V3 F4V310SNE 10.5 kg Washing Machine – Graphite / White + 5 Year Guarantee £359.10 with code @ Currys

One helpful tip is to use CamelCamelCamel to check the historic prices of something on Amazon.

Fiqh Trivia

We love a bit of a fiqhi conundrum here at IFG. Black Friday presents a couple of interesting ones.

  1. Can you take something out of someone’s trolley if you can’t find stock on the shelf?

On one hand the person who has the item in his or her trolley doesn’t own the item. The trolley is just a loose notion of belonging. By (English) law, it belongs to the store until such time as the person has checked out with the item and paid for it.

The rules under English law on ownership mean that taking something out of someone’s trolley isn’t against the law. It’s bad darts, certainly. But as long as you’re not committing another crime (such as assault or threatening) then there’s nothing against you taking something out of someone’s trolley.

Islam, however, places a lot of credence on the spirit of the law and not just the form of the law. A brief examination of Hadith relating to transactions makes it clear that Allah encourages peace, fairness, tranquility etc when it comes to economic activity.

So under English law you can technically do it but you need to avoid straying into disputes so best to avoid. And under Islam, you definitely can’t do this because the very basis of Islamic transactional law is to minimise disputes.

Of course, it’s a different story with the online world! Perhaps we should do a fiqhi discussion about the permissibility creating bots that buy high-demand items next time ;).

2. Is it permissible to outbid someone else when competing to buy something?

“Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) forbade the (people) meeting the caravan (for entering into business transaction with them), and the selling of goods by a townsman on behalf of a man of the desert, and seeking by a woman the divorce of her sister (from her husband), and outbidding (against one another), and tying up the udders (of animals), and buying of (things) in opposition to one’s brother.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 10, Number 3621).

The Hadith is pretty clear. You can’t try to steal someone else’s deal once they’ve agreed with somebody. Again, this goes back to the point about how Islam encourages peace and fairness in economic activity.

(P.S if you like thinking about these sorts of fiqhi questions, you should join our lessons where we are studying the Majallah text with Mufti Faraz Adam. Here’s the link).

Conclusion

So there we have it folks! Conclusions:

  1. Black Friday isn’t all that. But you can get some good deals. Then again, you can always get good deals if you look hard enough.
  2. You might want to think about spending in stores this year almost as a form of charity to support businesses of all sizes. Particularly if you are buying gift cards.
  3. As Muslims, we shouldn’t go too crazy wasting a Friday shopping. But if you’ve been looking for something in particular for a while and you know it’s cheaper now, go for it.
  4. You can’t nick something out of someone’s trolley if there’s none left on the shelf and you can’t outbid someone once they’ve agreed a deal.
  5. But can you create a bot that buys high-demand for you in the online world (thus stopping other people)? We’ll save that discussion for another time!

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