Beware Black Friday

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Category: Negotiation, Public
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In honor of the upcoming shop-a-thon known as Black Friday, I am linking to last week’s article in Newsweek about how we need to shop.  The science behind this impulse is the same that we deal with in negotiation in terms of how clients view risk, loss, and gratification.  In full disclosure, here’s a picture of  my most recent inability to delay gratification.

As the authors write,

Indeed, the choice to spend rather than save reflects a very human—and, some would say, American—quirk: a preference for immediate gratification over future gains. In other words, we get far more joy from buying a new pair of shoes today, or a Caribbean vacation, or an iPhone 4S, than from imagining a comfortable life tomorrow. Throw in an instant-access culture—in which we can get answers on the Internet within seconds, have a coffeepot delivered to our door overnight, and watch movies on demand—and we’re not exactly training the next generation to delay gratification.

“Pleasure now is worth more to us than pleasure later,” says economist William Dickens of Northeastern University. “We much prefer current consumption to future consumption. It may even be wired into us.”

As brain scientists plumb the neurology of an afternoon at the mall, they are discovering measurable differences between the brains of people who save and those who spend with abandon, particularly in areas of the brain that predict consequences, process the sense of reward, spur motivation, and control memory.

The article goes on to explain far more of the science behind our spending habits and how, in the future, we might be able to disable this.  In the meantime, I’ll just need to avoid certain shoe stores in NYC!

Cross posted at Indisputably.

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6 Responses to “Beware Black Friday”

  1. Discussing the link between instant gratification and negotiation reminds me of one of the first things we learned at the beginning of the semester — differentiating between a client’s positions and interests. By using a client-centered approach, we can identify why a client wants to take a certain approach as oppose to assuming that our way is the “right” way. Who knows, we might find out that the reason they want an instant gratification solution is completely valid. On a personal note, I would like to consider myself in the gray area between needing instant gratification and delaying a reward until you almost forget you’re waiting for it. I am definitely not swayed by the door-buster deals on black Friday and would much rather pay a little extra to save my sanity. The article refers to the famous study that placed marshmallows in front of 4-year-olds and revealed that the children who waited for the second marshmallow scored much higher on their SAT; I’m hoping that maybe that’s a predictor of how we “delayers” will do on finals. Good luck studying everyone!

  2. I, personally, would like to believe that law school has somewhat curbed my need for instant gratification. However, I would be lying to myself if I credited this change to school itself. Rather, it is more likely that a lack of income has actually does this. Regardless, perhaps over the remaining year and a half of my law school career I will continue to crave the instant gratification of a new handbag or pair of shoes less and less. I hope that school is teaching me patience and that my need for instant gratification will be smaller when I leave than when I entered. I also hope that it will lead to a greater sense of patience and understanding in any future professional negotiation settings.

  3. This Thanksgiving holiday was the first time I did not participate in the Black Friday phenomenon. While I have never been the true door-buster, waiting-in-line-overnight-in-the-cold, mace-spraying shopper, I did always partake in the great deals this day offered.

    This year, however, was the first year in which I truly did not have any desire to battle the crowds just to buy the newest trendy item. Maybe I’m finally growing up and my need for instant gratification is dwindling. Or maybe, after learning different negotiation tools, I am starting to realize what my true interests are and what I need to do in order to get them.

    While I am still tempted to achieve instant gratification in many areas of my life, I have noticed that I am now more willing to take a step back and ask myself if this is truly what I want or need. After taking ADR, I have begun to measure my current interests against other future interests, to determine what I am willing to sacrifice and what is truly necessary for me to have at this point in time.

    In understanding my interests and the process I go through to determine these interests, I feel I am more equipped to understand a client’s interests. Whether it be helping future clients in the negotiation process, or just showing a little restraint on Black Friday, the negotiation tools I am learning are proving very beneficial in many areas of my life!

  4. Matthew Hall Says:

    In many ways, having a lawyer present at a negotiation is a way to counteract the human impulse for instant gratification. As the shopping analogy illustrates, we often want something now. This is particularly true in adversarial settings, which often make us uncomfortable. In a negotiation setting, I sometimes get nervous, feel uncomfortable about disagreeing with the “other side,” and often feel the urge to just accept a solution to have the whole thing over with.

    Enter the protection provided by a lawyer (or a frugal friend on Black Friday). Those who are not as emotionally invested in the outcome as the participants are able to provide reassurance that a better deal is available or that there is further negotiating to be done. Returning to the shopping analogy, a frugal friend may convince us that while the pair of shoes is on sale right now, we may be in a better buying position in the future (e.g., we get money for the holidays–fingers crossed!)

    Having someone who is dispassionate, in the emotional sense, can curb our desire for instant gratification. This, among other reasons, is why having a attorney present in a negotiation can be a powerful way of protect ourselves from “ourselves.”

  5. Sabrina Stephenson Says:

    Unlike Katie’s change–a reduced urge to spend impulsively–I have found that law school has increased my own impulsive shopping habits.

    Perhaps, as the article above suggests, I am more fond of the instant gratification that accompanies a shopping purchase than the idea of expedited loan payments in the future. I have found, upon reflecting over this change, that I often enjoy the pleasures associated with buying and utilizing something new–especially as the instant sensation contrasts so heavily with the gratifications associated with law school. Although there are some courses that provide feedback throughout the semester (ADR being one such class), most require that students attend, read, and learn material all in preparation for a final exam in December. Ultimately, that results in a preparation period of nearly four months–with no feedback for nearly five.

    While I can identify that these long waiting periods between preparation, performance, and feedback will soon end upon graduation, it is important to look forward to similar lengthy processes that may arise in the future. Whether engaging in negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or litigation (or any hybrid thereof), one must assume that the chosen process will take time and patience. I will be unable to exercise a “Client-centered” approach to any issue if I am constantly hoping to receive instant gratification (settlement via accomodation, etc).

    So, perhaps even in the future I will exercise my current outlet for instant gratification–shopping–to better focus patiently on extended client issues.

  6. As it relates to a human urge to spend, Black Friday is no doubt the most indulgent displays of the perpetual need to obtain the newest and the best of whatever is on the market. It has become a day when I refuse to leave the house for fear of drowning in an current of shop-crazed speed walkers and suicidal drivers. Each year it seems to be gaining more momentum with an increasing number of participating stores and extending hours. This year, for example, some stores are opening their doors at 8 p.m. Thursday night. Yup, on the very day of thanks itself, people all over America will be eating their meals as fast as necessary to ensure that they do not compromise their spot in line to get the ever-anticipated release of some unnecessary gadget that is going to be obsolete by the time they send their Christmas lists to St. Nick. Is there a limit? Will next year’s sales bonanzas kick off at 5 p.m.? Then noon? Why not just cancel dinner and spend some time with our loved ones in line at Walmart? I’m not usually one to focus, much less comment on, the increasing merge between corporate America and the holiday season, but at times it is hard to ignore. Happy holidays!

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