DETROIT (WWJ) – Next to the Saturday before Christmas, Black Friday ranks as the seminal shopping day of the season. Yet a recent analysis by Consumer Reports revealed that the day after Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily the optimal time to get the best deals on many products.
A recent analysis of prices from the mid-November to mid-December period in 2010 showed that in a significant proportion of cases, the lowest prices of the season on the included items were not on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the day following the Thanksgiving weekend.
For example, more than a quarter of the recommended TVs and cameras were at least 5 per cent cheaper between Cyber Monday and December 13 than they were earlier, including during the Black Friday weekend. With laptops, the resulting data indicated that consumers would have been at least as likely as with TVs and cameras to save on recommended models by waiting.
Consumer Reports’ senior editor and shopping expert Tod Marks said retailing trends suggest that the opportunity to score a great deal won’t end this weekend, so there’s no need to panic.
But if you plan to shop at a store or from the comfort of home, here are five Black Friday tips that can help save your money and sanity.
It’s not always worth breaking down the ‘door.’
There is no doubt that manufacturers offer some deep discounts on Black Friday. Generally, the very best “doorbuster” deals are only available in limited quantities, and perhaps only for a short duration. Since early October, there has been a flurry of doorbuster promotions promising items such as a $200 laptop or TV. Black Friday earned its reputation as a bargain-hunter’s paradise because retailers feature a few of these high-profile items as loss leaders, which are sold at- or below-cost to draw shoppers in. But consumers shouldn’t bother to show up unless they are willing to wait in line, sometimes for hours before the store opens, and should be prepared for possible disappointment. There are no guarantees, and usually no rain checks.
Sniff out the most appealing specials in advance.
Numerous websites obtain and publish Black Friday deals, often weeks before they’re officially released. You can also find out which products come with rebates and which merchants offer free shipping. “Like” your favorite retailers on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for advance notice of special sales. Check out the CBSDetroit.com Black Friday Cheat Sheet.
Try to get it for less online.
If a circular features an eye-popping deal, consumers should visit a price-comparison Web site to see if another reliable seller is offering it cheaper. Some sources worth checking: Bizrate, Nextag and Pricegrabber. Shoppers might want to try Amazon, too, as Consumer Reports’ reader surveys have cited Amazon as a good merchant for appliances, electronics, and books. And don’t shop without first checking for coupons at sites such as Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com.
Request a price guarantee.
Ask if the retailer has a low-price guarantee – which entitles shoppers to a refund of the difference between the new price and the original price paid if the item goes on sale or if it’s offered cheaper elsewhere. Walmart recently announced that it’s beefing up its price-matching policy for the holidays. Note that most price-matching policies apply to the price charged by a “local” competitor, not websites like Amazon.com or even warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s.
Eye return policies carefully.
The blanket policy for most products at big-box stores is 90 days, but may be shorter for electronics. Some merchants extend the return period for holiday purchases, but they reserve the right to refuse to take back anything without an original or gift receipt, especially if the item was bought with cash. Even if a store agrees to take an item back without a receipt, they may only issue you a gift card or store credit slip in exchange. And shoppers will get back the value of the lowest price the item actually sold for, not necessarily the value of the price paid for it. Receipts are needed to take advantage of warranty services. Make sure there are no restocking fees for returned goods