Suckers! Black Friday shopping, doorbuster deals are for amateurs

Stop the madness. Spend your Black Friday researching real bargains and planning your shopping. Photo: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

SAN DIEGO – November 22, 2012 - The lines have been snaking out the doors for days. Some people have set up camp with tents, heaters and barbecues. These bargain hunters hope to be the first to get their hands on cheap Gap sweaters, cut-rate flat screen TVs at Sears, and if they are really lucky, a discounted Xbox at Target.

The National Retail Federation predicts 147 million Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend, and holiday sales will increase 4.1 per cent on last year.

If you’re one of these people, you’re a sucker. Sorry, the truth hurts.

Black Friday is to smart bargain shoppers what New Year’s Eve is to celebration connoisseurs: Amateur hour. You need to get over the hype, over the advertising, over the herd mentality of Black Friday. Just plain get over it.

Black Friday “doorbuster” bargains are the bait on the hook to get you into the store. Once you’ve waited for hours, are you really going to walk out with a single item that saved you $50 and go home? Not likely. The goal of Black Friday is to get as many gullible shoppers hyped up on bargains like kids hyped up on Christmas candy into the store with promises that don’t pay off.

Michael Walsh waits in in line at a Target store in Colma, California on Thanksgiving morning. Walsh was the first person in line, showing up at about 6 a.m. Thursday waiting for the 9 p.m. opening later that night. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Numerous studies of Black Friday deals show they aren’t big deals at all. Most of the “discounts” are smaller compared to price cuts and discounts throughout the rest of the year, or are calculated on the “MSRP” or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. When’s the last time you paid MSRP? Nearly never if you’re like me. So if MSRP is $100 but the generally available price is $79.99 and the “doorbuster” price is $50, you’re saving $29.99, not $50.

Notice also the goods aren’t high-end models, and they’re often models you can’t find at any other store. How can you do a price comparison? You can’t and that’s what stores are counting on.

Worst of all, if you’re having to use a credit card to buy it and don’t pay off the balance, the interest charges will bite into your savings if not erase it entirely. If you end up making a late payment, that will be as much as $39. So long savings.

Dora Hurtado waits in line at a Pembroke Pines, Florida Toys-R-Us store on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. Black Friday openings have crept earlier and earlier over the past few years. Now, stores are opening their doors on Thanksgiving, hoping Americans will be willing to shop and endure miserable waits soon after they finish their pumpkin pie. AP Photo/J Pat Carter

Another cost many people fail to factor in: your time investment. My time is worth a lot to me. Consider the time you’re giving up staying in line three, five, or ten hours. Is your time worth $10 an hour? $20? $50? Do the math. Now think about what your time is worth to a child, a lonely person, a homeless animal in a shelter. 

Retailers are aware many people are shopping early. Many of the best deals have already been out there a while, some since October. For example, clothing is discounted throughout the year. At stores with multiple discounts and “cash back” like Kohl’s, you can do better by watching sales throughout the year. You can do especially well at online sites like Rue La La, Ideeli, and discount stores such as T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s.

Some Black Friday deals have been out there for days. At my neighborhood Home Depot, I learned that the “Black Friday” appliance prices have been available for a week. Stores like Kohl’s, Costco, Lowe’s, QVC and even the Starbucks Store have been emailing me Black Friday offers promising great deals without waiting in line anywhere, never mind burning up expensive gasoline to get there.

But let’s say you are just getting started and missed out on all these discounts. You have to shop Black Friday, right? Nah. Another lie is that Black Friday is just one day. Those cheap cameras and flat screens in the Black Friday ads will be replaced by other models with discounts just as good next weekend, and the next.

To avoid the crowds, shop early and on a weekday. According to forecasts by ShopperTrak, Tuesday, November 27 is the lightest day of foot traffic. There will be plenty of good deals and you will get the best customer service steering you to the best prices. ShopperTrak says other excellent days to shop are November 26, 28, and 29, and December 3, 4 and 5.

Highly recommended: shopping late at night when stores extend their hours. If you’re normally awake anyway at 10 or 11 p.m., it’s a quiet time, shelves are being restocked, clerks start to relax and they have time to be helpful.  

Black Friday isn’t actually the busiest shopping day of the year. According to this is a myth. The Saturday before Christmas, this year December 22, is the single busiest shopping day of the year, followed by the previous Saturday, December 15, and then December 23 and 24. Stores competing for foot traffic late in the season will have great deals, especially if they are nervous about moving inventory.

To prove a point, I did my own price comparison survey in just a few minutes using my own resources for research. Macy’s is advertising loss-leader jewelry deals such as diamond hoop earrings for $40, discounted from $160. I found beautiful 22K gold plated panther Kenneth Cole doorknocker earrings for $25, down from $125 on the website this week. Do you really think someone will know the retail price was $125 on their gift instead of $160? The Kenneth Cole earrings were impressive.

Toys R Us will give you a $15 iTunes gift card for every $50 iTunes gift card you buy. Kohl’s sells iTunes gift cards and if you shop on days you get “Kohl’s Cash” which are vouchers to spend later, you could get $10 or even $15 in vouchers for every $50 you spend. Use the vouchers to buy something else another day, like another gift card. And the amount of purchases and rebates is unlimited (although if you spend enough to get $250 in Kohl’s Cash vouchers, they are mailed to you).

You’ll save a lot more money using Black Friday as a day to plan your shopping. Set a budget. Pick gifts according to your recipients’ real interests and needs, not what a circular tells you. Consider shopping with a local small business. Sixty-eight percent of your money stays local, compared to 43 percent when you shop at a big box store. If you shop on Small Business Saturday with an American Express card, you’ll get a $25 gift card for spending $25 at a qualifying small retailer.

If you ask most people, what they remember fondly about their holidays isn’t about gifts, but a tradition they enjoy. In the end people don’t much remember a bargain camera or sweater they received years ago. But they certainly do remember what they shared with someone close to them.


Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.


Copyright © 2011 by Falcon Valley Group

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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