Today is “Black Friday,”
the day on which retailers across America try to assure their profits
for the year by offering outrageous sales. Each store tries to outsell
its competitors, whether by offering the lowest price or by opening at
the earliest hour. Under such pressured circumstances, as the crowds
“stampede through,” one must certainly keep in mind the Roman warning of
Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware.

In honor of this mercantile tradition, Jewish Treats presents a few ideas of Jewish law applicable to a day of sales:

1) Honest Weights And Measures: “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in length, in weight, or in measure” (Leviticus 19:35).
Although many products today are not sold by measurements, this
important halacha can be understood as an injunction for retailer
honesty – to sell exactly what has been advertised.

2) Intention
To Buy: “A person may not oppress (or mislead) his friend” (Leviticus
25:17). In the Talmud, this verse is connected to the following
statement: “One must not ask another, ‘What is the price of this
article?’ if there is no intention to buy” (Baba Metzia 58b).
Going into a store and asking the sales clerk about a product when you
have no intention of making a purchase, or you intend to purchase the
same item from another retailer, gives the clerk the false hope of a
sale. Additionally, it steals the time of the sale’s clerk, and perhaps,
that of other waiting customers. However, if one is even remotely
contemplating purchasing the product from the store, the inquiry is

3) Pricing Power: Jewish law generally allows a retailer free rein when it comes to pricing. However, the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish
Law) notes that pricing that varies by more than 1/6th of the going
market price is considered unfair, and both the seller and the buyer
have the right to annul the sale. 

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