Black Friday is known for its ability to bring the crazy out of people and this year was no different! Read about the evolution of these console launches and how diehard video gamers spent Thanksgiving sleeping in a parking lot for the CHANCE to purchase either a Sony Playstation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X/S.
Let's be honest, as we approach the end of the year it is totally ok to admit how terrible it has been.
A global pandemic, a nearly year long lockdown and a deep recession to go with it, 2020 is definitely a year I will be happy to see end next month.
However, there have been a few rays of sunshine to keep our spirits up while we wait COVID-19 out. Early November saw the two biggest companies in the video game industry, Microsoft and Sony, release their highly anticipated next generation gaming consoles. There is only one small, tiny, problem. No one can get them!
Xbox Series S and Series X
Over the last few weeks since launch day, there has been a ton of speculation as to the scarcity of these new systems, but I think once you had had time to really sit and give it some thought you will realize it is a combination of a lot of things.
For one, there is a global pandemic that has kept people locked up in their homes for almost a year. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the idea of having a brand new gaming console sounds terrific. Add the fact that the manufacturers were willing to do whatever necessary to make this their biggest releases in history and you are starting to get the picture.
In recent interviews with the press, executives at Sony made it clear that one of their biggest concerns of launching a product of this magnitude during a pandemic was that it wouldn't have enough anticipation or ability to compete with the serious issues facing the world today. How Sony nor Microsoft couldn't see that people were going to scoop these devices up at record breaking speeds is mind-bending. By June of this year video game sales were already on the road to having record breaking sales, imagine what demand would be like 6 months later?!
There is also one more aspect to this whole release that may not have been considered by everybody when planning this launch and that is the involvement of professional scalpers and their use of cutting edge technology to "game" the system (no pun intended). Scalpers. Some of the worst of the worst, especially with these consoles.
You might be asking how Scalpers could play such a huge role in the release of a video game system. Well, let me tell you. There are two ways to purchase one of these devices, either online or in person at a retailer. Scalpers use superior technology to gain an unfair advantage during the purchase process. By using "bots", basically computer software that allows them to buy dozens (or more) consoles at speeds a human is not capable of doing, they are able to exponentially grow the demand and price of these products.
**Each console is priced at $499 USD and is currently being scalped on Ebay for $1000-$2000 USD. There are thousands of units for sale at these prices and even more shockingly, have sold at these inflated prices to desperate people trying to save Christmas**
While you might not think this is a huge deal, it actually did become one, before the devices were even actually sold. Before launch day in November both Microsoft and Sony had a pre order window that allowed customers a chance to pre purchase the device of their choice.
However, there was not an unlimited amount of consoles available meaning not everyone could have one that wanted one (another aspect that makes you wonder about the manufactures role in the problem). There is no good explanation as to why Sony and Microsoft would limit their preorders except to make the products scarce and super valuable. Consumers would definitely be willing to wait longer to get the console in their hands if it meant they were guaranteed to get one.
As 2020 moved along and we got closer to preorder day, the hype for the release of both consoles began to grow rapidly. People were getting desperate for something new, especially with the extended lockdowns! Fast forward to mid September when preorder day finally came. Reports of limited availability had been circulating for months and fans began to really get worried they would not be able to get one.
Any doubt that this release was going to be record breaking, or interfered with by scalpers, immediately dissipated when preorders began and systems crashed all over. Some chose to camp in Gamestop parking lots for the chance to place one of the coveted orders. The result left a lot of people upset and without a reservation for a console.
*Retailers like Target, Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy were completely inundated by bots and scalpers managed to walk away with the lions share of devices. We could spend hours talking about the awfulness of an online release like this but i can sum it up for you quickly today, it sucked. A large portion of people never even had the chance to add the console to their cart and many could not even get the websites to load due to the massive server overload caused by bot traffic (bots can add a product to cart and successfully checkout before a human even loads the darn product page).
If you do a quick search on Google you will find countless videos of people's experience. Its a site to see for sure.
Release Day Nightmare
Between the time preorders were taken and release day in November, each manufacturer made sure to continue hyping their products with constant advertisements, commercials, and news of "exclusive" games that would only be available for either PS5 or Xbox Series X. However, it is important to note that two of the biggest games in the world, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and Assassin's Creed Valhalla would be available on both platforms.
If you are a part of the gaming community then you were keenly aware of reports of continued scarcity and the added stress of professional scalpers, which added serious fuel to the fire as we approached launch day. So much so that many people made it clear that they intended to sleep outside of Gamestop for a minimum of 12 hours to heighten their chances of grabbing a console.
Unfortunately, launch day was just as crazy and way more people went home empty handed than those who were actually able to get their hands on one of these highly coveted systems. There were even reports of fights in the parking lots, people who cut the line and those who came just to obtain a console to sell for 2-3x its value.
I should mention that a lot of people were able to get the system of their choice and went home to promptly begin gaming but many more did not.
Both consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X were instant sellouts and gamers would not have another chance to purchase either system until the holiday season.
**Again, major retailers Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Amazon all had serious issues with their websites leaving many people distraught over their continued lack of success in obtaining a console. To add insult to injury, there were reports of people successfully checking out only to get a cancellation email hours later due to the product being "oversold."
How can billion dollar companies fail to adopt measures to prevent bot activity and ensure their actual customers are cared for? The simple, callous, New York answer is money. A sale is a sale is a sale. Why would Walmart care if scalper man buys 100 units leaving poor Timmy with coal under the tree? It's sad but the truth. Hopefully one day there will be a company of this magnitude that actually cares about its customers.
Before we move on to Black Friday, I should mention that the period between launch day (11/10-11/12) and Black Friday (11/27), it became clear to millions (yes, millions!) of people that they might not actually be able to get one of these consoles before Christmas. Lots of parents began to fear disappointing their kids, or spouses, in what has been an already tremendously difficult year and that is how we ended up with the situation that occurred during Black Friday 2020.
Gamers Sleeping Outside Gamestop On Thanksgiving
Black Friday Chaos
For the record, i would like to say that I think Black Friday encompasses everything that is wrong with America and i am a capitalist, but seriously its embarrassing.
This year Black Friday was more like two weeks if you include Cyber Monday. Retailers were taking advantage of the fact that the majority of Americans are still stuck at home with little to do other than spend money online.
Sony and Microsoft announced that there would be "plenty" of stock available for the holiday season, which is just insulting given how everything has gone since September.
Retailers began advertising deep deep discounts on every category of product and announced plans to conduct flash sales almost every day of the week of Thanksgiving leading up to Black Friday. While consoles were not being discounted as part of the sale, they would still be available and this would be the last chance to get one before Christmas(and according to reports from Sony and Microsoft product shortages could last well into 2021).
One particular retailer, Gamestop, announced plans to have both PS5 and Xbox Series X available in limited quantities at all of their locations nationwide on Black Friday. When they say limited they mean 2 to 4 of each device per store. Yes, 2 as in the number after 1 and before 3. One of their biggest retailers during the holiday season would have a handful of consoles and hundreds of thousands of people looking to buy them. This wasn't a sale anymore it was a lottery!
Keep in mind, if you go to Ebay or any one of the numerous secondary market sites online, you have the pleasure of buying a console with no wait or fuss, for $1000-$2000 USD! Consoles that cost $499 were being scalped for 2-3x their MSRP and the scalpers were able to get thousands of systems. Scalping is totally unfair, especially during a pandemic and despite my capitalist views, really should not be legal. But it is.
So here we are rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, 10 months into a seemingly never-ending pandemic, and people were faced with the choice between spending the holiday with their family or waiting outside in a parking lot for upwards of 24 hours to get either PS5 of Xbox Series X. Do I really need to ask you what choice most people made? Yes, people chose to forego their Thanksgiving plans and instead set up tents, cots or just sleep on the ground outside their local Gamestop location. This is truly madness.
Thanks to the technology age lots of potential buyers chose to monetize their experience by streaming live on popular social media platforms like Youtube and Instagram.
Oh, i forgot to mention, this year Gamestop decided to close on Thanksgiving, so those who wanted to guarantee themselves a console had to show up on Wednesday night (WEDNESDAY!!!) and wait until the doors opened on Friday (YES, FRIDAY) morning. Some locations opened promptly at 7am, while others did not open until noon. The result left eager customers spending between 24 and 48 hours on line, in a parking lot, on Thanksgiving.
Should I continue?
Let me remind you that each Gamestop location was allocated between 0 and 10 consoles with the majority of stores having 2 of each console. Common sense would dictate that no more than 10 people maximum would camp outside the store. Wrong! Reports verified with video evidence show that some locations had 100 people waiting for the chance to go home empty handed. I mean really, it sounds ludicrous because it is, its crazy! IF you know that a store only has two of an item you want, and the sale will be first come first served would you wait in line outside behind 90 people? For two days? On thanksgiving? Well, if you had looked you would have found them at every Gamestop in America.
If you are desperate to get your hands on either the Playstation 5, or Xbox Series X, and have not been able to do so yet, there is still time to do so. All you have to do is be incredibly lucky, I mean like miracle status and you should have no problem! Seriously though, there are still plenty of retailers that will have at least a handful of systems in stock before Dec 25th, you will just have to be vigilant and make securing it a top priority if you really want that console under the tree this year.
Let’s face it: this sucks.
After a massive vaccine campaign, a pretty successful hot-vax summer, and a pre-holiday season which made us believe things would finally-finally be getting back to normal, we were introduced to the Omicron variant.
As booster shots slowly rolled out, none of us were prepared for how hard and how fast this surge would hit. Unlike other variants, Omicron is more resistant to the vaccine and is infecting even those with booster shots and antibodies.
And it’s really effing scary.
Places like New York are teetering on the edge of another lockdown as restaurants close, offices shut down, and events get canceled. In short: it feels like March 2020 again.
In the words of the perpetually relatable Olivia Rodrigo: “do you get deja vu?” Yes, Olivia, we do.
There are some differences to this surge. Luckily most people — especially the vaccinated among us — are experiencing mild symptoms. While numbers are up, hospitals are not as overwhelmed as they were when the virus first slammed us.
However, this time, many of us are experiencing pandemic burn out — mentally and financially.
When the pandemic first began, no one could have imagined how long it would last. Many people who were furloughed or working from home saw it as taking a few weeks off to relax and unwind. Obviously, this was not the case. Rates of unemployment skyrocketed and some were forced to move out of their homes to save money or take other dramatic, unexpected measures.
What did this look like? Burning through savings accounts, plunging into credit card debt, and adopting the precarious paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. According to CNBC “42% of U.S. adults with credit card debt have increased those balances since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.”
And while employment rates are up in 2021 and the Great Resignation has seen people seeking and finding better opportunities, the Omicron surge proves it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
In a recent money confessional on Slate’s “Pay Dirt” column, one reader expressed their frustration at the financial setbacks they experienced during the pandemic. While they were not totaled by the changes, they had to drastically adjust their life plans.
The columnist responded: “A lot of people had their dreams shattered in 2020 … Just because your situation isn’t the same as your more-hard-hit co-workers’ doesn’t mean that you aren’t grieving the loss of your income,” giving us all permission to feel the negative feelings. They continued: “Toxic positivity is very real in the United States and inspires a lot of people to say that no matter what their life is like, they should be happy … But you can be happy and grateful, yet still, acknowledge the suck in a situation.”
This perspective reflects a necessary shift that we all need to make. Especially as we approach yet another perilous year in the land of Covidia. It’s soooo hard to continue — and continue and continue — being grateful and not be, quite frankly, fed up. So what can we do about it?
As everything is spiraling out of control, there are small things you can do to feel less overwhelmed. And maybe, less bitter, sad, or resentful — provide room to process and accept this unfortunate reality as best you can.
Feel Your Feelings
Toxic positivity festers when we assume we should feel a certain way and don’t pause to let ourselves feel our negative feelings. Emotion comes from the Latin emovere - to "move out, remove, agitate." If we really break it down we get ex "out" + movere "to move." What does that mean to us living in America in the early days of 2022? Get those negative emotions outta here. Feel them and move ‘em out.
Then take a deep look, free from judgment, at how you’re actually doing in your day-to-day life. Try daily journaling, or delve into meditation.
Take Stock of your Life
Often, without realizing it, we fall into habits that become patterns and routines that eventually become our whole lives. So, when these habits are disrupted …. by, I don’t know, a global pandemic … we’re shaken out of our comfort zone and into reality. Take a glance at your life. What are you actually, truly, grateful for? What is mere distraction?
Make a Plan
Our spending habits are the first thing to spiral out of control and the most difficult to course-correct. If you’re worried about your financial health during this time — or you want to be more vigilant just in case — try the Cleo app. This holistic service manages your money for you and helps you gain control and improve your situation. Managing your money no longer feels like a chore, and it’s actually fun!
All in all, Meet Cleo makes you feel like you have a handle on your finances. And in these uncertain times, just being aware of your standing can offer a world of comfort. With Meet Cleo as your side, you no longer have to cave to toxic positivity. This app keeps it real and chats with you like your honest, most blunt friend. And for that, we thank her.
Find out more about Cleo here and put yourself on the path to financial control.
When you think of personal finance, what springs to mind?
Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank fame? Dave Ramsay yelling into a podcast mic? Finance bros tracking their bitcoin? Unfortunately, these are the images we're constantly bombarded by. So they're the archetypes overwhelmingly represented in personal finance.
But it's not all Chads in down vests and dad-types shaming you about your financial faux paus, the personal finance world has grown increasingly more dynamic and diverse.
With the rise of social media, the importance of financial literacy has entered the mainstream, as essential information is no longer confined to impenetrable, official documents. Instead, educators have changed their approach and are making the intimidating world of managing your money far less scary.
Through graphics, memes — and other whimsical mediums — online financial advice that's geared to younger generations is more and more common.
Now, with the help of TikTok — an app unique for wildly popularizing previously niche subjects — personal finance talk has become ubiquitous.
Who's Doing the Talking
The beauty of social media is its power to democratize. Though TikTok has been criticized for promoting those its algorithm chooses — and has even resulted in strikes from Black Creators demanding to be given more credit — it's also granted platforms to people with different experiences and backgrounds.
When it comes to financial advice, TikTok makes it super relatable. No longer is advice restricted to "skip your morning latte" and "quit that avocado toast" or other millennial-shaming behavior. These days, young people directly advise their peers by sharing sympathetic experiences.
From debt repayment to financial freedom journeys, people are engaging with the obscure realm of finances in a charismatic way.
Financial Feminists … But Don't Call Them Girlbosses
One huge TikTok sub-movement that's emerged is the Financial Feminist movement, which urges women specifically to take charge of their finances.
However, this isn't a repeat of the early 2010s Girlboss Feminism or even Corporate Feminism which encourages women to rise up within an established system. This is a whole new ball game.
By empowering women to speak to each other, personal finance is no longer a shame-game. Instead of scrolling through Reddit threads that mock people who support the trappings of the patriarchy like makeup or highly-feminine clothing — which are often deemed necessary for society to take one seriously, if not by Reddit bloggers — women learn from other women about how to manage their lives.
There's also information about unlearning feminized behaviors, helping women break out of socially coded patterns which hold them back from asking for help, asking for more or asserting — and believing! — their true value.
Financial Feminism takes into account the wage gap, talking about gendered norms and systems that prevent us from living financial lives equal to male counterparts.
Even more radical, however, are accounts which incorporate intersectional politics and social commentary. Instead of merely assessing the numbers, they examine the social structures and hierarchies that cause people to treat their money differently and radically affects how they live their lives.
These little communities have become hubs for financial empowerment for marginalized genders with the mission of helping them know themselves better, do better — and have fun while doing it!
Despite its addictive charm, you can't live your life on TikTok alone.
So while Personal Finance TikTok is an okay place to start, taking effective action means getting off TikTok… and onto a better app. Cleo is a budgeting app that's as engaging as TikTok, but actually helps you do the things you're learning.
According to their website, Cleo integrates all your accounts and — like a financially savvy and brutally honest friend — reveals what's truly going on in your wallet.
Cleo is like the coolest finance major you'll ever meet. Simply text her all your questions about your spending, your habits, and your current balances, and she'll give it to you straight.
She'll also tell you when you're running low — like when you really should skip that Starbucks stop so you'll have money left for the subway home — and keeps you on track of your goals.
Ah yes, 'tis finally the giving season!
As someone whose love-language is gift giving, I relish most opportunities to spoil my friends with sweet tokens of appreciation. I am the queen of spontaneous gifts. When I'm puttering around the city, doing my silly little tasks, I always perk up when I find some small trinket that I can give my friends.
Nothing says "I love you" more than saying, "hey, this reminded me of you." And then handing them a nod to a past conversation, or a memory we share. So, sorry to my friends for cluttering your houses with sentimental junk, but I'm even more apologetic for my fatal flaw: when it comes to the holidays … I always draw a blank!
To me, organic gifting is much more genuine than holiday gifting. Yet, if I were to use that as an excuse for turning up empty-handed to every single holiday party this season. I fear I'd start the new year off with fewer friends. And, as someone who loves to receive gifts just as much, I don't want to chance burning bridges that might hold presents on the other side.
So, when the holiday season arrives, I spend far too much of my precious time strategizing my gifts for my friends.
Often, when I draw a blank, I end up splurging on expensive gifts — a luxury candle, a decadent face oil, a classy bottle of perfume. Sure, these opulent gifts are a cop out, but they're guaranteed successes. Upon opening a package containing their favorite, overpriced indulgence who wouldn't smile?
Due to my holiday default, I'm forced to do some serious budget planning to accommodate my lavish spending. Or, more often, I go spectacularly over-budget.
However, this year, I must make a change. After my summer of post-vax hedonism that granted justification to spend more money than I'd ever dare, my holiday budget's looking pretty lean.
After sitting myself down and giving myself a strict talking to about prioritizing my savings, I've come up with some tips on how to save money around the holidays:
Review your budget
The amount of money we think we spend and the money we actually spend are two very different numbers. Grab a drink, pull out your bank statements, it's time to get to the bottom of your spending.
Take a look at two or three months and categorize your purchases. Which ones were intentional? Which ones were emotional? And how many times did you go to the coffee shop just to feel something and leave with a $10 latte and pastry? Once the truth is laid out in front of you, it's easy to see where you're bleeding money.
For me, it's coffee shops and boutique clothing stores I discover during jaunts around trendy neighborhoods. Whatever your vices are, do your best to become aware of them.
Budgeting apps like Cleo have helped me curb my impulse spending a ton! Cleo talks to me like a friend would — a friend who is not afraid to tell me no and call me out on my overspending. We all need a friend like Cleo, so download the app and watch your budget change overnight.
via Cleo App
Cut out what you don't need
It's all well and good to glance at your spending, but the next step is brutal: get honest with yourself about the purchases you could have gone without. But this isn't about deprivation, it's prioritization. What can you relinquish now to ensure you have a great holiday season later?
Cringing at past impulse buys I've made, I vowed to avoid my typical temptations, since I couldn't resist them. I know I'm easily lured into charming little storefronts downtown. So I took new routes home, avoiding the streets where all the cool clothes lie, waiting for me to cave.
I'm sure, in good time, I'll be back. But that's a problem for 2022-me. Until then, we just have to hold out for less than two months, get the gifts our friends deserve, and then it's back to regularly scheduled planning.
Make a spending plan
Saving without a plan usually leads to spending. As you narrow down what you can afford, figure out what you want to buy. I like to split it into categories: larger expenses vs. affordable picks.
Here's the fun part: shopping around. Sometimes I only have a general idea of what I want to buy, and sometimes I have specifics in mind. Either way, I love to shop around for a deal.
When it comes to saving money, research is paramount. Various vendors might have different prices, promotional codes, or sales. A quick Google search can often save you 10% or more, so don't take the first price you see as gospel.
via Cleo App
After finding the best price, I can budget for what I'm going to buy and when. Which takes me to ….
Take advantage of sales … strategically
The holiday season brings with it the promise of big, blowout sales. But, if you're not careful, you can end up spending more money during a sale — which is precisely the stores' intention.
Don't fall victim to the allure of those big, red "SALE" stickers. Instead, plot out how to take advantage of a number of sales for different products. Adding those sale prices to your spending plan will keep you focused and on track, instead of buying frivolous items no one will ever use just because the prices are slashed.
Saving money over the holidays doesn't mean you have to make a Scrooge of yourself. You can still gift and gift well, just more intelligently. Spending with intention is key to savings, while investing thoughtfully into your relationships.
Apps like Cleo can help you keep your finances on track without feeling overwhelming. With one download, you could be on your way to mega-savings.