A quote associated with Black Friday decries the fact that Americans spend the previous day giving thanks for all they’ve received before going out to fight for more stuff. In this new decade, Black Friday feels more like a curse than a blessing, although the annual wrestling match seems to have calmed down a shade since its 2010-ish highs. Of course, in the middle of the Christmas rush, there’s always a store and always a shopper ready to take advantage of Black Friday sales.
Black Friday should be a difficult sell. A study conducted in the UK by consumer watchdog Which? revealed that just 1% of Black Friday deals represented the cheapest-ever price, with 98% of products either costing the same or less in the days following the infamous retail frenzy. A few things can be inferred from those figures but, most importantly, it’s likely that a) prices never fell at all and/or b) generally low-value, close-to-clearance items make up the majority of products put on special sale on Black Friday.
Of course, while the UK shares Amazon with the US, big-box retailers are more of an American invention so Britain’s Black Friday tends to be a muted occasion. In fact, the novelty seems to have worn off. The US is remarkably defensive about Black Friday, though, with many websites deferring to the best possible deals over the many cautionary tales that have emerged over the years. With that in mind, let’s take a look at ways to identify legitimate offers, just in case.
One of the first things to note is that some industries have offers and promotions all year round. Things like free gifts, buy-one-get-one-free offers, discounts, and free trials are fairly commonplace online. Look at Epic Games’ video game giveaways, Whole Foods’ free samples, Papa Johns’ Two for Tuesdays, and the myriad sites that now offer cashback on select purchases. Additionally, we can also turn to the casino industry to see the wide variety of promotions available.
In the latter case, tools already exist to separate these offers by legitimacy. The website UScasinos.com, for example, analyses online casinos with no deposit bonus (among other elements) and ranks them according to the quality of what they are offering. It’s a comparison site, in other words, something that can assist shoppers in every sector during, before, and after Black Friday. As the site details, there are many ways to spot a bonus or deal. Comparison sites such as this serve an important role, but it’s important to understand what you’re getting exactly. How can you be sure that a special offer is just that though – special? It can be all a matter of research.
The careful Black Friday shopper knows what they are interested in buying before the day even begins. While impulse buying is central to the success of this weird “holiday”, it’s no good for consumers of any description. Planning ahead means that you can check the flow of prices leading up to Black Friday itself. As the Which? study above demonstrated, some retailers do rely on customer ignorance to claim that an item has been discounted. An example of an underhanded trick is to set a price high for a very short period so that it can later claim to have been reduced significantly.
Be sure to check the small print to determine every detail of a promotion, too. A price reduction of 1¢ is still marketable as a price reduction if nobody is paying attention. There’s a reason why some companies put ridiculous clauses in EULA agreements – nobody reads them. The now-defunct UK store Gamestation could “legally” claim its website visitors’ souls, for example.
Websites such as Google and Yahoo! Shopping, Shopzilla, Shopping.com, PriceRunner (in the UK), and CamelCamelCamel (Amazon-only) provide a variety of price-tracking and product comparison services to help consumers determine just how good (or bad) a Black Friday deal is. It’s worth mentioning, here, that once-in-a-lifetime product discounts and other bold claims tend to have a short shelf-life, that is, retailers usually forget that it was never meant to go on sale again. In other words, check back later on offers that try to add time pressure to the customer journey.
While Black Friday offers may be exempt from other discounts, it’s still worth installing a browser add-on like Honey to either collect points to redeem later or apply any extra promotions you may have missed while surfing the web. You should also try researching any companies that are new to you and reading reviews in independent places, such as TrustPilot, MetaCritic, and TrustedReviews. Major newspapers also like giving their opinion on everything from the theatre to washing machines.
Whatever you choose to do each November, hopefully, these tips will help you have a happy and safe Black Friday.