“Black Friday” is one of the busiest shopping days in the United States. It is a day of unbridled consumerism on steroids, when people pitch tents and lay sleeping bags in front of retail stores and malls across the country, getting ready for the big event.
Black Friday is usually celebrated exclusively in the United States, but this is rapidly changing following the introduction two years ago of “Bitcoin Black Friday.” The event is the brainchild of Jon Holmquist, the event’s founder and primary cheerleader.
Black Friday has been getting quite a bit of negative press in recent months because many retail stores are opening up on the day of Thanksgiving, rather than waiting for Friday. Some are even threatening to fire workers who fail to show up. Walmart workers are threatening to strike.
The Thanksgiving holiday, for those unfamiliar with it, is not celebrated on a specific date. Instead it is scheduled for the last Thursday of each November. The holiday was created by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and workers were traditionally given a long weekend to celebrate.
Many people used the next day to begin their gift shopping for the Christmas holidays that were only a month away. Over time it became known as “Black Friday,” not because merchants made enough money to move profits, as is commonly believed, but because police officers hated the day due to the traffic jams it caused.
In 2002, Black Friday became the number one shopping day of the year in the United States. Merchants now begin gearing up early by advertising ridiculously low prices (while limiting the number of items available at that price). The rush to buy in retail stores has gotten so bad that many actual injuries, and even deaths, are reported each year.
But Bitcoin Black Friday has been growing more popular each year and it promises to double its popularity this hear. Last year, the number of participating merchants reached 600 and Bitcoin sales climbed to US$6 million. That number is expected to increase, according to Holmquist, to 1,200 merchants this year. With the addition of such merchants as Overstock.com, receipts might indeed be impressive.
Holmquist says that they have added new features to the event:
"We have two things planned. First is the ability to instantly purchase Bitcoin with your credit card: a small amount, like US$25 worth. For most people, that's not too much of a risk. And we're also going to have a section [of the site] where you can purchase something for a small amount of money."
The early advertising of Bitcoin Black Friday is one indication that it is growing quickly. In 2013, the event was not announced until the day before, but the website still had more than 100,000 visitors. The late announcements were primarily due to the fact that most merchants last year that accepted Bitcoin were few and far between.
But the situation is rapidly changing. In 2014, some major announcements, such as the one from Paypal back in September, were made about new merchants accepting Bitcoin including several giants such as Dell and Showroomprive in Europe.
Therefore, this year’s event should put the spotlight on Bitcoin and prove that digital currencies designed for the information age can make the experience even cheaper and quicker than the good old US (fiat) dollar.
[Editor’s note: A comprehensive Bitcoin Black Friday Deals Guide has been published here.]