Real Costs of Black Friday Deals

Real Costs of Black Friday Deals

Every week, we get a roundup of recent developments in Right to Repair news, courtesy of Jack Monahan and Paul Roberts from Fight to Repair, a reader-supported publication. Sign up to receive updates in your inbox. (It’s free!) Or become a premium subscriber for access to exclusive content and live events!

71% of people in the U.S. were expected to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This massive number far surpasses the number of people who voted in the off-cycle elections earlier this month. It will also be more than three times the people who watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Black Friday is a reminder that the scale of our collective consumption is staggering. And while endless commercials will show happy people smiling using/wearing/eating different products, a piece is missing. What happens before those products reach us and after we trash them can be far more consequential than we realize. People in rich Western nations are typically insulated from those impacts; hence, they are invisible to us.

A woman at a sewing machine repairs a bag. Text in the background says "it's broke. Fix it." next to a rack of garments.

Cheap Clothes = Cheap Labor

Clothing items are a good place to start, since they are the items people are most likely to buy during these shopping holidays. Literal tons of clothing will be bought this week just in the U.S. by people who are looking for cheap goods in the face of rising costs of living. It’s understandable to want these products, and why we purchase them, but fashion is a stark example of the need for a foundational change in how we choose to produce goods.

Just take the abysmal wages of garment workers in Bangladesh, who make $75 USD a month. They are currently protesting to receive higher wages and have shut down the production of global fashion brands H&M and Levi’s to increase their pay. A quick review of Levi’s site shows the listing price of their jeans at $98, far above what they pay their workers for a month’s labor.

This is the dark underbelly of low-quality goods. The savvy marketing we will see over the next few weeks promises to make us happy by purchasing a pair of jeans. It purposely avoids what it costs our planet to produce and sell those goods or the conditions faced by the people making those clothes. Then when the clothing we buy on Black Friday is dumped, it ends up on foreign shores, ensuring the problems of pollution and waste from the clothing are far outside our view. And, as fast fashion continues to be normalized, the quality of clothing is dropping, as is the number of times people wear each garment.

One way to fight these destructive trends is to put more information in the hands of consumers. GoodOnYou and Remake rate brands on their labor and sustainability practices, so if you’re buying something this week you can get a better idea about how companies treat their workers and the environment. These organizations are putting pressure on companies to commit to labor standards and transparency around their production and waste, and often have petitions and causes to ally with.

Another solution is to skip shopping for new stuff altogether and instead mend a piece of clothing you already own. Repairing clothing (especially as a group activity) can both increase lasting feelings of happiness and connection with others. And that’s a great alternative to the retail therapy narratives flooding our feeds. Sometimes slowing down is the best thing to do, and there’s no better way than practicing repair.

More News

  • EU Parliament backs new right to repair rules: By officially adopted a negotiating position on new measures to strengthen the right to repair and reduce the environmental impact of mass consumption, Europe’s parliament voted through a proposal would make it easier to repair defective goods, reduce waste and support the repair sector. Sellers of devices would be required to prioritize repair if it is cheaper or equal in cost to replacing a good, unless the repair is not feasible or inconvenient for the consumer. MEPs also propose to extend the legal guarantee by one year once a product has been fixed.
  • Most people (80%) in the UK believe companies make repair difficult: This survey from PIABLOG surveying residents of the United Kingdom found:
    • 1 in 5 upgrade their phone every time a new model is available
    • 4 in 5 upgrade their phone every two years
    • 3 in 5 would repair instead of replacing
  • Circular economy startup Reboxed® lands €1.8m to tackle e-waste: Reboxed, a sustainable tech startup that is looking to rehome 100 million electronic devices by 2030 secured €1.8 million in seed funding led by ACF Investors. Reboxed provides an online platform that sells premium refurbished and pre-owned devices including phones, laptops, tablets and smart watches through a “like new” experience that focuses on quality, consistency and a genuinely circular approach.
  • The Great Washing Machine Scam: The decline in the reliability and repairability of modern washing machines can be attributed to unnecessary “high-tech” functions, plastic components, and electronic systems that make them more prone to breakdowns. Aaron Britt interviews appliance repair professionals who argue that older machines were simpler, more durable, and easier to maintain, lasting up to 20 years compared to the 8-10 years expected from new washers.