The early bird catches the free deals, I mean, the worm. In 2012, Black Friday freebies at certain stores encouraged more and more early-bird shoppers to wait out in the cold hours before the stores opened. Some stores offered specific free items to the first customers in line, while others relied on rebate programs or have their customers advertise for them on the social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Let’s take a look at the four types of freebies from Black Friday 2012.
1. Freebies for Showing Up
Major national retail chains offered different freebies to customers in 2012. Half Price Books offered free $5 gift cards in tote bags to the first 100 customers in line when doors opened at 7 a.m. – one of the totes promised to contain an additional $100 gift card. Michaels, the craft supply chain, gave free bars of Godiva chocolate to the first 100 customers, and Sam’s Club offered free cups of Starbucks coffee and fresh pastries. At Sports Authority, the first 80 people in line received “Bonus Bucks” gift cards, ranging from $10 to $500. Toys ‘R’ Us incentivized very-early-bird shoppers with a free bag of toys for the first 200 families showing up at 8pm on Thanksgiving evening.
2. A Chance to Win
Best Buy offered customers a chance to win $175,000 in prizes (concert tickets, 2,000 Best Buy gift cards, etc.) if they were in line at the store between 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and midnight. However, to be entered into the drawing, customers were required to tweet #InLineAtBestBuy. JC Penny gave free holiday-themed buttons to Black Friday shoppers, with codes on the back which had to be entered in online for the chance to win free vacation packages.
3. Freebies for Spending
Some stores made a freebie – or a chance to win one – contingent on a certain customer’s total amount purchased. The clothing retailer Aeropostale gave buyers a free pair of headphones or DJ Teddy if the total purchase was $100 or more, while Old Navy offered a chance to win a new Super Mario Brothers game for the Wii when customers spent at least $40.
4. Rebates ‘R’ Us
And then there were rebates. Staples Black Friday shoppers could buy McAfee Internet Security software for just under $70, receiving a $16 rebate in-store and the remaining $54 as a mail-in rebate after purchase. CVS offered a whole raft of rebate freebies, from Hershey’s chocolate to Advil painkillers. Most of the rebates were contingent on shoppers signing up for the CVS loyalty program. ACE Hardware offered a $4.99 Self-Centering Tape Rule as a freebie with a full rebate.
So there you have it: free products, chances to win prizes, free items added at checkout, and rebates. Overall, most of those Black Friday freebies in 2012 weren’t really free. If there was no price tag, then customers paid in terms of the hours spent in line on Thanksgiving evening or Friday morning. If there was a requirement to use social networks like Facebook or Twitter to say a person was in line, then there was the trade-off of customers giving online data to the retailer or advertising for the company. If there was a rebate, then customers had to remain organized and patient enough to receive the rebate in the mail weeks later. In 2013 and beyond, it’s likely that stores will keep offering Black Friday freebies, but as in 2012, these free products will likely have strings attached. Know which ones you’re willing to do to get the deal for you, and prepare for Black Friday this year by checking out the ad leaks.
Black Friday shopping image courtesy of Shutterstock