Happy Friday the 13th. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a very unlucky day. And unfortunately, if you’re in the retail sector, it will most likely be unlucky. Business revenue is known to drop by as much as $900 million on Friday the 13th. People take their superstitions very seriously.
No one is completely sure how Friday the 13th got its bad rap, but we do know that the superstition has been around for a long time. Friday was the day executions were carried out in pagan Rome, and was Hangman’s Day in Britain. The Bible is rife with bad events happening on Friday: It’s supposedly the day that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Noah’s flood began on Friday, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on Friday, the crucifixion of Christ was on Friday.
Thirteen has been a historically unlucky number of guests to invite: at the Last Supper, 13 guests attended – one of whom was the traitor who betrayed Jesus. The Vikings also avoided inviting 13 guests based on a legend where twelve Gods were invited to a banquet and an evil god (who was not invited) crashed the party and killed the host. The modern French solve this problem by hiring quatorziens (fourteeners) who, for a fee, come to a dinner party to be the fourteenth guest.
In Western culture, the number 13 impacts much of regular life: buildings are built without a 13th floor, many cities don’t have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue, hospitals don’t have a room number 13, airports don’t have a 13th gate. Friday the 13th not only impacts retail, but businesses report greater occurrences of employees calling in sick and many people report that they don’t drive on the 13th for fear of getting into accidents.
You’re said to have the devil’s luck if you have 13 letters in your name. Infamous characters with this “luck” include Charles Manson, Theodore Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer (I should note that I also have 13 letters in my name . . . and I’m not a serial killer, so that might disprove that superstition).
Superstition in Business
People engage in superstitious beliefs in business all the time. Do you have a special suit you wear for important meetings? A lucky pen? Do you avoid walking under the ladder when the maintenance guy is changing light bulbs? Friday the 13th isn’t the only irrational superstition.
During an unstable economy, typically rational people can be quick to associate superstition with reality. By avoiding certain “unlucky” things and latching onto “lucky” things, people feel a sense of control over the situation. Of course, studies have failed to ever prove that superstitions are true.
Psychologists believe that people are quick to connect luck with normal happenings. For instance, if you were wearing your blue pin-striped suit and carrying your black Montblanc pen to the meeting where you landed your first big deal, then that suit and pen must be lucky. The previous times you wore the suit and didn’t get the deal fade from your mind. Conversely, if you get in a traffic accident on Friday the 13th, that day must really be unlucky (you forget the fact that on every other Friday the 13th during your lifetime, nothing bad happened).
Lucky Business Superstitions
It’s thought that about 9 percent of Americans suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia (intense fear of Friday the 13th) Though some of your customers may be superstitious of this day, most aren’t. Carry on business as usual. And if you lose sales today, use superstition to your advantage to gain sales on another day.
In Western society, the number 7 is considered “lucky.” Host a Lucky 7 sale on the 7th of the month, or on the 7th day of the week (Saturday).
Price merchandise using lucky numbers. Asian cultures believe that 8 is a very lucky number. A recent study showed that people will pay more for merchandise if it is priced with eights (for example, Asian shoppers stated that they were willing to pay $888 for a stereo instead of $799 for the same stereo).
During 2012 there are three days on which Friday falls on the 13th: January, April and July. So the good new is that you might be able to consider this the last unlucky day of the year.