Some Black Friday Deals Aren't Bargains
Black Friday is synonymous with deals. More than one-half of consumers believe that this big shopping day after Thanksgiving provides the most savings of all the major winter holiday sales, according to a survey by RetailMeNot.com.
SEE ALSO: 15 Gifts That Keep Giving
However, consumers should be aware that not all products advertised as Black Friday deals are great buys or even unique deals, says Matthew Ong, senior retail analyst for money-saving Web site NerdWallet. In fact, many retailers will recycle deals from the previous year in their Black Friday ads, he says. In a comparison of 25 retailers' Black Friday ads from 2012 and 2013, NerdWallet found that 23 of the retailers this year listed at least one identical product with the exact same price as last year. NerdWallet also found that some Black Friday markdowns are exaggerated and that some deals can be beat at other times of the year. While none of this means you can't get a great price on Black Friday--you certainly can--just be aware that you're not always getting the best price.
All of these Black Friday deals seem appealing: a table tennis table at Dick's Sporting Goods marked down 50% to $249.98; a sewing machine at Jo-Ann marked down by $255 to $194.99; a tool cabinet at Harbor Freight that will drop in price to $149.99 from $199.99. However, the sale prices on all of these items were the same last Black Friday, according to NerdWallet. Usually all things technology-related get marked down when newer models are released. Yet OfficeMax is selling the Brother Laser MFC-7360N All-in-one printer for the same "discounted" price this Black Friday as on Black Friday 2012: $129.99.
According to NerdWallet, retailers often use the manufacturer's suggested retail price as the original price in Black Friday ads rather than the price items are currently selling for in stores or online. As a result, the discounts look much larger than they actually are. For example, the Dick's Sporting Goods Black Friday ad states that the above-mentioned table tennis table will be $250 off, for a sale price of $249.98. But it's currently selling online for $299.98 -- just $50 (not 50%) more than the Black Friday price. The Bon-Ton Black Friday ad shows a sale price of $99.97 Keurig K45 Elite Brewer and a regular price of $172. Yet NerdWallet found it listed for $119.99 on the Bon-Ton Web site.
Deals that can be beat
Ong says that many items will sell on Black Friday for prices that are higher than at other points in the year. For example, Target's Black Friday price for a KitchenAid Classic Plus Stand Mixer is $199, but NerdWallet found it on sale in early November for $183.99.
And some Black Friday price cuts aren't any deeper than markdowns during other annual sales. For example, Sears is advertising that Kenmore appliances will be up to 30% off on Black Friday. However, it marked down all appliances up to 30% during its Memorial Day sale. NerdWallet found that Macy's Black Friday door-buster deal on a Tommy Hilfiger faux-leather jacket was the same as its Veteran's Day sale price: $79.99.
How to avoid deals that aren't really deals
Ong says that consumers should research the items they want to buy before Black Friday to avoid falling for these retail practices. Plenty of Web sites, such as dealnews.com and BFAds.net, publish Black Friday ads before they appear on retailers’ Web sites or in newspapers. You can use these leaked ads as a starting point for planning your purchases and comparing prices at sites such as PriceGrabber.com or PriceSpider.com, which shows price histories for products. Most official ads aren’t published until a few days before Black Friday. BFAds.net lists deals of note for each retailer's Black Friday sale and typically indicates whether better prices can be found at other store's sales. Dealnews.com offers a guide to the best deals and what not to buy on Black Friday.
You might find that you can get better prices on some items now because many retailers are running pre-Black Friday sales (see Why You Should Start Your Holiday Shopping Now. And you'll be better off waiting until after the holiday season to make some purchases (see 12 Things Not to Buy During the Holidays).