The New Black Friday: Get the Best Deals

Wednesday Nov 10th 2010 by Mike Elgan
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Use technology -- and smart strategy -- to get the lowest prices on Black Friday.

ALSO SEE: 12 Black Friday Secrets Retailers Don't Want You To Know

AND: Who Killed Black Friday?

Want the best Black Friday deals? First, use technology to your advantage.

There are many Black Friday websites that alert you to deals and help with your pre-Black Friday education. Click on this Mother of All Black Friday links, and you'll open 10 of the best Black Friday sites.

These sites will tell you not only of advertised prices, but also point you toward coupons, online deals and even provide key intelligence you need in order to avoid getting ripped off – including what times the stores open on Black Friday. (Note that all these sites will open in one tab. Click on the arrow buttons in the upper left to navigate.)

Another strategy is to take advantage of your smart phone. Search the Android, iPhone or iPad app stores for the words "Black Friday" to find apps that alert you to the best deals. Most are free.

The advantage of this is that you can track various prices and be alerted to them. And by using the app, you become much more familiar with it. Then, on Black Friday itself, you can continue to use the app to find late-breaking deals you can respond to very quickly.

In the last couple of years, Black Friday has gone social. So search Twitter and Facebook for Black Friday pages. Also, search YouTube.

Black Friday Strategy

Black Friday ain't what it used to be. In the past three years, it has devolved into a kind of "Gray November," with retailers angling to profit from Black Friday hype by violating the traditional timing of the event and fleecing customers with Big Deals that are really no big deal.

That doesn't mean you can't find a really great prices. You can. But you’ve got to know what you’re doing.

Black Friday is supposed to take place the day after Thanksgiving, and serve as the official start of the holiday shopping season. For years, most major retailers have opened early in the morning and offered incredible discounts. Black Friday officially takes place this year on Nov. 26.

But retailers aren't waiting. Some have launched "pre-Black Friday" events -- Black Friday discounts offered before Thanksgiving. Some of these, including at Walmart and Best Buy are already in effect -- these stores are offering 32-inch HDTVs for under $300.

Target is offering steep "pre-Black Friday" discounts on electronics and other goods starting on the Sunday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 21). Additional savings are available with coupons that will be published that Sunday.

Many other retailers started offering prices marketed as "pre-Black Friday" discounts as early as the first weekend of November and in some cases even late October. They're trying to beat the competition by attracting the customers who can't wait.

Retailers might be playing a game of wait-and-see. They may advertise actual Black Friday deals at the last minute that are lower than "pre-Black Friday" sales. Or they may not. We’ll have to wait-and-see as well.

How to Beat the Scams

There are several ways major retailers can trick you into wasting time and money.

First, the very best deals are intentionally stocked low, so they can lure you into the store, at which point you find they're sold out. They're hoping you'll be tempted by impulse purchases.

Second, many retailers slap a "Black Friday" tag on an item that is discounted no more than a regular sale price that has been available for weeks. Or it could be the lowest price a particular store chain has ever offered on an item, but still not be as low as prices offered elsewhere. In other words, a "Black Friday" sticker or even a "lowest price ever" label doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

And finally, the "Black Friday" concept is often used to dump excess inventory, rather than discount the hottest products. If stores find themselves saddled with old products that people aren't buying, they might be tempted to slap "Black Friday" labels on them in order to dump them on naïve customers.

The only way to avoid both these scams is to do your homework. Know exactly what you want to buy and what the prices are before Black Friday, and compare those prices to deals offered elsewhere. When you find an incredibly good and rare price on a specific product, get in line early and make a bee-line for the item.

I also recommend that you go for the big ticket items. Think about the things that you intend to buy anyway: TV sets, tablet computers, PCs, smart phones, and so on and find the cheapest prices you can. Lower-ticket items where you save only a dollar or two just aren't worth the trouble.

If you're responding to advertised Black Friday prices, bring the ad. Sometimes the cashier didn't get the memo.

You should also note that the majority of Black Friday deals are available online. So if you find an advertised price, go ahead and search for that same product on the online discount stores and see if you can beat it. If you can't, you know you'll have a bona fide Black Friday bargain.

There is always uncertainty surrounding Black Friday deals. You may stand in line for hours, for example, and still not get the product. One tried and true approach is to buy the product you want in advance of Black Friday at the lowest price you can — as long as the store you buy it from has a return policy.

Then, on Black Friday itself try to beat the price you paid. If you're successful, you can return the first one you purchased. If you're unsuccessful, well, you still got a pretty good price.

Be smart, and avoid getting suckered by an ill-informed impulse buy. Oh, and try not to get trampled.

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