Does the holiday shopping frenzy do more harm than good? Are there unintended economic consequences such as health problems, missed work, lower work productivity, etc.?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL December 17, 2015

Owatonna, MN-As a card-carrying Libertarian, I fully support voluntary redistribution of wealth via financial transactions between two willing parties.  Therefore, I have no intrinsic problem with the holiday shopping frenzy that takes place roughly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

What I do have trouble supporting is the overhyped concept that we all must spend as much as we can afford, if not more, on gifts for other people in order to validate our own self-worth.  The notion of a dollar spent equaling a dollar’s worth of happiness is repugnant and demeaning to the American culture.  We shouldn’t strive to be the most profligate, materialistic country on the planet. How can that be a good thing?

Overspending is good for some people.  It provides extra employment during the holiday period for those struggling to pay their bills.  It allows business owners a chance to get into the black (make a profit for the year; i.e. Black Friday).  Purchasing imported products certainly provides jobs for countless people in other countries, albeit often at slave-level wages and abhorrent working conditions.

But what about the people doing the spending who are teetering on the edge of mental stability?  What if they become so depressed by their lack of perceived value to society because they can’t spend unlimited amounts of money “showing others how much they are loved,” that they end up with serious mental problems, possibly going as far as killing themselves?

What about those who are driven to steal, embezzle, or gamble with money they don’t have and end up in jail or on the street because they lose jobs, homes, and any money they might have saved up?

What about those who are so brainwashed by the culture of consumption that they neglect saving and responsible spending for their entire lives, only to wind up in poverty at retirement and dependent upon others—usually the government—for subsistence?

If the cost of all these negative outcomes from the holiday shopping frenzy were subtracted from the net profits of all holiday sales, the bottom line might even result in Black Friday changing to Red Friday.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I think this question would have spurred a more negative response from me five years ago, when here in my hometown of Charlotte we were starting to see much more of the encroachment of Black Friday into Thanksgiving Day, and when several people were hospitalized in a trampling horde at the opening of one of the largest malls in the area.  The thug behavior shown by the crowd, some shoppers intentionally stepping on those on the ground to leap ahead of others, was the absolute worst of human nature.

This still happens, although I’m tremendously heartened by the move this year by some major retailers to remain closed on Thanksgiving.  Outdoor retailer REI gave its employees Black Friday off, and experienced a healthy sales increase online thanks to the good PR and friendly news coverage it received.

However, when it comes to a loss of productivity, it’s undeniable that the proliferation of online shopping has taken its toll in offices all across the country.  While it may be tough to duck out of the office for a few hours to go shopping at the mall (although it absolutely happens), it’s far easier to get online and check out the holiday Woot-Off or Amazon’s lightning deals.  When your smartphone mail alert dings with a Target flash sale, the temptation to log in and see what’s on offer can be irresistible.

And those same smartphones have made employers’ attempts to monitor online activity far more difficult.  If Bill in accounting has a spreadsheet open on his desktop for two hours, who’s to say whether he’s actually working or absorbed in his iPhone, trying to find the perfect sweater for his wife (even though his wife hates sweaters).

This productivity loss is also spread throughout the season, as different sales hit at different times and different retailers try to squeeze the last few holiday dollars out of their customers.  So while Americans may not be bruised and hobbled from Black Friday mall mauling, their employers still take it on the chin.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-
The holiday shopping frenzy can do more harm than good.  Many people are caught up in the rush to buy gifts for others and themselves, and they end up spending a lot more than intended and find themselves regretting it.  The true meaning of the holidays become a blur and is meaningless in the sense that Christmas is not just about indulging and shopping until you drop.      

There are unintended consequences with overindulgence, and they begin with debt accumulation even before the holidays are over.  Racking up huge credit card bills over expensive gift giving can put a person in debt for years—long after the Christmas gifts have been given, used and thrown in a corner.  

The stress involved with finding the perfect gifts for family, friends and co-workers can be extremely time-consuming and exhausting at the same time.  Running from store to store, waiting in check out lines, or even shopping through the internet can be a long and arduous process.  Finding just the right gift for picky gift recipients, who already have everything, can be even more exhausting and stressful.   

The rushed feelings and pressure that are created from holiday shopping frenzies can bring on all sorts of stress-related health issues from panic attacks to insomnia, and even more serious ailments.  It is usually colder outside during the holiday season and people are more confined to the inside, and when other people are put in the mix, exposure to illness happens.  Bodily resistance is lowered through stress and when the wrong food and drink is consumed, and shoppers are exposed to people coughing and sneezing, then colds, flu and sore throats follow. 

Holiday shopping sprees can lead to missed work and lower work productivity as well.  The scramble to shop for numerous gifts while working a full-time or even part-time job can bring on endless tiredness and sleepless nights that eventually lead to the use of sick days and distraction from normal work routines.

Loss of sleep and illness can make it difficult to even contemplate getting out of bed to run to the office or other job and work a full day.  Hours are missed and temporary employees or regular employees are left to double up to make up for lost time.

The unintended consequences of holiday shopping can be harmful, but people simply need to take the right precautions to avoid the negatives of too much of a good thing.  Budget a certain amount of money or credit card space for gift-giving, so holiday debt is limited or nonexistent.  Eat nutritious meals and don’t overindulge in sweet and fatty foods at holiday parties or family get-togethers; get enough rest and sleep to avoid exhaustion and reduce the risk of illness, plus limit exposure to others in confined areas.  Most of all, avoid getting too stressed out.  Your peace of mind, health and work commitment are a lot more important than holiday shopping frenzies.  Slow down and enjoy the true meaning of the holidays.     

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-The holiday is a time to be merry.  During this period, it’s expected that we spend time with the family and friends.  This means taking a few days from work, effectively budgeting our money to ensure we don’t break the bank, while putting something aside to buy a gift or two.  However, too often people suffer as a consequence of the holiday shopping frenzy.  That is, going on those crazy shopping ventures where people behave wildly and disorderly. 


It’s not uncommon to perform a Google search, only to discover how many persons have been trampled on at Walmart or other locations due to a Black Friday or holiday event.  These gatherings, especially those involving massive sales, tend to hurt.  All in all, various factors involved suffer.


For example: Being trampled on is no fun.  These victims tend to either end up at the doctor’s office, in bed or at a morgue.  The holidays do crush!  Additionally, a few days might be missed from work after an all out stampede or in other cases where the individual decides to go shopping instead of work.  In both cases, as an attempt to take part in these holiday shopping frenzies, the office suffers greatly.  Less days at work means less productivity and revenue streaming into the business.  Not only does this affect the business, but extensively, the economy.


Really, many people deem the shopping frenzy necessary during the holidays, but it does more harm than good.  Other alternatives to this holiday shopping frenzy might be to shop online or those participating in these activities during the holidays should behave orderly.  After all, we are humans and not animals.

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