Advertiser Disclosure

Should You Believe Black Friday Ads?

Nov. 12, 2014
Black Friday, Shopping
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

For strategic shoppers, ads highlighting the specials of the season are one of the most anticipated parts of Black Friday sales.

You can sign up at websites for email notifications about deals as soon as they’re leaked. Then, once you have access to the ads from all of the stores in the area, you can compare products and prices to successfully plan your Black Friday shopping. The ads, which allow you to identify stores with the best bargains, are a great tool to help you make your schedule.

But don’t put too much faith in ads, especially those leaked online, because as useful as they can be, and especially if you don’t read beyond the big type, they can also mislead and misinform bargain shoppers.

Beware Common Tricks

Retailers use a range of tactics to ensure that shoppers spend more money than they plan to at sales. Since the details of a deal often aren’t listed in the ad, you may not know what you’re getting into until you show up at the store.

One thing to keep in mind when looking at ads with prices that seem too good to be true: If there’s a limited supply, such as doorbusters with very low prices, then the item probably won’t be available for many customers.

The mail-in rebate is another popular strategy that might not save you money. Even though retailers may list a great price, it’s only after you examine the fine print at the bottom of the ad that you realize the price is available only if you mail in a rebate form. 

That means you have to pay the full price – or something close to it – when you purchase the product, and you’ll get the difference back later. And in some cases, you may not get money back at all, because retailers list rebate deadlines so close to Black Friday that only a few shoppers will return their rebate mail-in forms in time.

Details May Vary

Retailers with stores across the U.S. generally release one ad for the entire nation. But even if that retailer has stores in your area, the information in the ad might not be the same for every store. Products vary by location, so you could show up at your local store only to find that it doesn’t carry what you’re looking for.

Stores’ opening hours also often vary depending on location. Even though ads list the regular hours of the retailer, the store in your area might have different hours. Always call your local store beforehand to avoid the frustration of showing up in the wee hours at a store that opens three hours later than you expected.

Missing or Wrong Info

When you’re looking at sale ads online, keep in mind that the information might not be complete. In the rush to post Black Friday ads, many websites will make mistakes, like leaving out essential pages, posting early drafts of the ad that didn’t make the final cut or even accidentally uploading last year’s ad.

If the online ads you find have typos, are printed in black and white or appear blurry, take the information with a grain of salt. Sloppy ads probably aren’t the official version and could have inaccurate details.

Don’t rely on one site to find a store’s ad. Instead, check a number of sources, look for different versions of the file (in case websites are borrowing inaccurate content from each other) and whenever possible, go straight to the source. Check the retailer’s own website for the ad, and, if they’re available, pick up print copies at the store.

Written by Melinda Szell

Black Friday shopping image via Shutterstock