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Are You Getting a Lousy Black Friday Deal?

October 28, 2013
Black Friday, Shopping
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

When it comes to Black Friday and Black Friday deals, shoppers expect to find killer discounts and special promotions at all their favorite stores. While there are many such deals to be had this November, be wary of offers that sound too good to be true – even reputable retailers rely on a number of tricks to take advantage of unassuming shoppers. To make sure that you’re not the victim of such tactics, learn about the most common tricks that retailers like to use around this time of year before you make any big Black Friday purchases.

Major fine print

As Alexander Pope said, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Before charging in on the biggest markdown sales you can find, be sure to take the time to read the fine print. Retailers like to throw around phrases like “doorbuster deals” or “blockbuster savings,” but the fine print of the sale often gives the lie to these terms. This fine print may well include “no rainchecks,” “while supplies last,” or “only one per customer.” Many shoppers who line up in the early hours of Black Friday will find themselves out of luck because of the fine print attached to the sales items they have their hearts set on.

Derivative items

Once an uncommon occurrence among retailers during the holidays, selling derivative items has become a staple of the Black Friday shopping season. There are many examples of this practice, which is most commonly applied to electronics and entertainment. You may find well-priced Samsung TVs or Sony Blu-ray players, for example, which in fact feature far fewer amenities than the standard model. While they may still be a decent deal, the idea of the promotion is to trick you into buying an item that you imagine to be a colossal deal because you’re comparing it to a higher quality model by the same brand. Beware of this bait-and-switch and compare the derivative models to their own original prices, not to those of the standard models.

“Limited” supplies

This is a favorite trick among retailers during the Black Friday season. Anticipating the consumer frenzy that grows to a fever pitch each November, stores like to entice customers by artificially limiting the available quantity of their best-priced big-ticket goods. Expect that after the initial rush of Black Friday shoppers, the stores will mysteriously have a massive surplus of those goods. Even worse, these same retailers often refuse to give out rainchecks or offer layaway services for the items in question. There is an especially ugly side to this tactic, as the promise of “limited supplies” of marked-down items has lead to the stampedes or fights that have broken out on Black Friday in recent years. Sadly, individuals have actually died in pursuit of a good deal on a TV or video game console, and the “limited supplies” or “while supplies last” trick on Black Friday is a contributing factor.

Upselling

This tactic, in which a retailer aggressively persuades a customer to buy a more expensive option than they would have previously considered, is a common one year round, yet it seems that Black Friday is the time when upselling becomes even more prominent throughout the consumer world. To protect yourself from this trick, before you get a luxury item, ask yourself: are you looking to buy it because of its price markdown, or because you actually wanted it in the first place?

Store layout tricks

This is not quite unique to the Black Friday season, but it is a gimmick that is utilized more than usual during this time of year to maximum advantage. You’ve probably noticed that, at your local grocery store or convenience store, the actual items you want (milk, bread, eggs, etc.) are all the way in the back store while the expensive, impulse buys are up front. Around Black Friday, however, these store layout gimmicks are more common than ever. To get around these psychological mind-games, work your way around the store in a deliberate way that avoids the flashiest sales or items and stick to a preplanned shopping list.

Even with all the hype and potential pitfalls, Black Friday is still one of the best times of year to expect great savings on in-demand items. Don’t let these tricks deter you – be a savvy shopper by staying on the lookout for these gimmicks and avoiding impulse purchases. If you can do that, you can rest assured that you’ve gotten some truly great savings.

Shopper photo courtesy of Shutterstock.