Things Are Looking Black For Boring Fridays Worldwide

“Sir, – Does Ireland have to still mimic everything the Americans do? We now have tiresome “Black Friday” retail promotions everywhere in Ireland.”

A letter in the Irish Times of Friday, 25-November-2016 caught my eye.

The correspondent explained what this “Black Friday” is, by way of her frustration: “The Black Friday retail tradition is, of course, the big day of sale activity on the day after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States of America, a holiday not recognised in the Republic of Ireland.”

(If you need more information on “Black Friday” then Wikipedia can oblige, alluding to the fact that the term may have religious connotations that might resonate with some Irish Roman Catholics, though at a different time of the year. However, that is news to me.)

It is completely true that “Black Friday” is everywhere in Ireland now, whereas even a couple of years ago it was unheard of.

Trash talking languages everywhere: "Black Friday" in Dün Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland. Image: Ultan O'Broin

Trash talking languages everywhere: “Black Friday” in Dün Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland. Image: Ultan O’Broin

“Black Friday” in Ireland has nothing to do with religious observance.

It’s a marketing term.

Furthermore, I was in Italy on the day in question, and in Florence (Firenze) this “Black Friday” business was all over the place too. Not a single translation of the term was needed to entice local shoppers.

Black Friday in Florence. No translation needed. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” in Florence. No translation needed. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Black Friday signs everywhere to be seen in Florence. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” signs were everywhere to be seen in Florence. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Image: Ultan O'Broin

20% “Black Friday” discount for today only on this store in Florence. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Black Friday signs in Florence on both multinational chains and locally owned and operated stores. Black Friday signs everywhere to be seen in Florence. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” signs in Florence on both multinational chains and locally owned and operated stores. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Black Friday signs in English. Making the world a more boring place. Image: Ultan O'Broin

“Black Friday” signs in English. Making the world a more boring, linguistically discounted place. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Thankfully, some sensible translation was sometimes to be seen in Firenze’s Mercato Centrale for example.

On the ground translation in the Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Image: Ultan O'Broin

On the ground translation in the Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Image: Ultan O’Broin

Whatever.

So, how could this “Black Friday” phenomenon in Ireland and Italy (and I bet everywhere else) have come about all of a sudden?

I blame the Internet and online shipping. “Black Friday” deals and sales specials are all over the place on Amazon, for example. How this could work across multiple timezones is anyone’s guess, so small wonder the special offers are available all weekend, or sometimes even for the entire week that follows …

And now the bricks and mortar stores have followed their clickable variants.

Another example of Internet-led globalization, I guess. Certainly, online retail knows no borders and doesn’t always need translation, but here on terra firma its influence is sometimes making the world an increasingly homogeneous, even boring, place for the rest of us and sounding the death knell for originality in local branding.

Don’t start me on “Cyber Monday“.

Amazon Italy Cyber Monday advertisement on the back page of La Repubblica of Monday, 28-November-2016. Image: Ultan Ó Broin

Amazon Italy Cyber Monday advertisement on the back page of la Repubblica of Monday, 28-November-2016. Image: Ultan O’Broin

In Irish folklore a bargain bought on a Monday (Margadh an Luain) was regarded as unlucky.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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