Along with great Black Friday deals come a lot of hype and misinformation about the biggest shopping event of the year. While we can’t tell you how to score a better parking space at your local mall, we can help you strengthen your shopping strategy this year by dispelling some common Black Friday myths. Don’t fall victim to the 14 falsehoods below:
- MYTH: Black Friday sales begin on Black Friday. Actually, several major retailers will launch their Black Friday sales as early as two weeks before the namesake day. Amazon, for example, will offer dealsstarting on November 17. We even see some deals sell out before Black Friday. Luckily, you can use this shopping tid bit at the dinner table as an excuse to step away from your drunk Uncle Roger.
- MYTH: Stores have ample stock of doorbusters. Unfortunately many “doorbusters” are exceptionally low-priced items meant to generate buzz and entice shoppers in-store. Most retailers have very limited quantities of these products, and it’s likely that only the first few shoppers in line will snag them. For example, last year’s mythic Sharp 42-inch HDTV deal for $199 at Best Buy was epic, but the retailer only guaranteed 10 units per store.
- MYTH: You need to camp out in line to get the best Black Friday deals. If you’re looking for an in-demand, limited-stock doorbuster, then being first in line when a store opens may be necessary to secure a highly coveted product. But these days, more and more Black Friday deals are available online as well as in-store. In fact, last year we found that 70% of in-store Black Friday deals were also available online for the same price — or less.
- MYTH: In-store Black Friday shopping is a dangerous contact sport. While there are always reports of overly-aggressive shoppers on Black Friday, a majority of consumers actually express feeling a sense of camaraderie while waiting in line. Plus, no store wants instances of violence to splash their name across the news, so they will do everything in their power to keep things in check. You might have to deal with large crowds and a mess of inventory, but the chances of encountering an actual brawl are extremely low.
- MYTH: Everything on sale on Black Friday is at its lowest price of the year. Although many Black Friday deals offer the lowest prices of the year, you should probably wait to buy toys, brand name HDTVs, and winter apparel. Toys see the deepest discounts right before Christmas; brand name HDTVs sink in price between December and February; and winter apparel sales are best after Christmas. Be sure to consult our upcoming November Buying Guide for more information on what you might want to skip next month. What’s more, retailers often sprinkle in mediocre discounts with their doorbuster deals, in the hopes that shoppers trying to bang out all of their holiday shopping will bite on high-profit items.
- MYTH: Nobody will beat Black Friday prices. We already know that this isn’t true: Last week Best Buy announced that it would match Amazon’s Black Friday promotional prices. And in a few weeks, we’ll publish an extensive list of stores that will offer price matching on Black Friday. Last year Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot and Meijer met competitors’ prices, and in some cases offered better deals.
- MYTH: All of the good deals are printed in Black Friday ads. On Thanksgiving Day, retailers like Walmart and Best Buy have historically advertised additional Black Friday deals that weren’t in their circulars. These “secret” deals are found only online, so the trick is to uncover them on the web before you consider a trip the to the store on Friday. Moreover, some retailers will respond to competitor pricing and make last-minute cuts in order to compete. So even if you’ve already perused a store’s early leak, you should always check back for Black Friday listing updates.
- MYTH: Leaked Black Friday ads are totally accurate. As we mentioned above, early leaked ads often don’t tell the whole story. Stores will alter their sales as they learn what competitors plan. Moreover, the fine print isn’t always present, which is crucial information if your heart is set on a doorbuster deal that will actually be available in extremely limited quantities.
- MYTH: You have to go to an Apple Store for its Black Friday sale. In reality, all of Apple’s Black Friday sale prices will be available online with free shipping sitewide. However, in our Black Friday Apple predictions piece, we actually advised against shopping the Apple sale at all. Not surprisingly, Apple is skimpy with the discounts, and most resellers — like Amazon, Mac Connection, and MacMall — will offer price cuts that will be twice as good for products such as the iPad and MacBook line of laptops.
- MYTH: Sales on designer and luxury goods abound on Black Friday. While high-end retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus broke the age-old trend of skipping Black Friday promotions last year, we don’t expect luxury stores to offer such sales again this year. (However, we may see special promotions from their outlet branches.) SmartMoney suggests that these stores may once again view the Black Friday frenzy to be in opposition to the very brand ideals they’re trying to cultivate. Although there are certainly exceptions to the rule, Black Friday is mainly a blockbuster event for lower-end goods.
- MYTH: If you go overboard on Black Friday, you can return your purchases. Not so fast! Stores tighten their return policies considerably during the holidays, making it harder to return items. Some retailers will only give you store credit even if you have a receipt. A handful of stores are now also keeping track of serial returners and banning them. And if you don’t remember to ask for a gift receipt, your recipients might be doubly unhappy: they’ll likely receive a store credit for only a portion of the return. Bah humbug!
- MYTH: Cyber Monday sales offer better online deals than Black Friday. For those of you who’d rather fully digest your Thanksgiving meal and not stand in line at midnight on the dawn of Black Friday, we understand. If you want to shop exclusively online though, don’t think for a second that you should wait until Cyber Monday. The sales that pop up on Monday will indeed be good, but a majority of Black Friday deals are available online starting Thursday morning. So why wait until Cyber Monday to bag bargains?
- MYTH: Completing a Black Friday order online forms a binding contract. Unfortunately, submitting an order online for an item — even after entering payment information — doesn’t guarantee that it’s yours. Retailer sites occasionally display inaccurate inventory and will sometimes let consumers buy an item the store doesn’t have in stock anymore; this can be a particular problem on Black Friday, given the speed of transactions on this day. Moreover, if a site accidentally publishes the incorrect price for an item, and shoppers take advantage of the amazingly low price, a store may decide to cancel all orders. Best Buy did just last Black Friday when it mistakenly offered a $100 iTunes gift card for $60; it canceled the orders and then asked customers to instead purchase the deal for the intended price of $80.
- MYTH: Good customer service isn’t as important as inventory. If anything, a rush of Black Friday shoppers vying for limited quantities of deals is even more reason for retailers to be organized, cordial, and customer-friendly … especially when they run out of stock. Disgruntled shoppers always complain. But nowadays they’re even more prone to texting, tweeting, and sharing their negative experiences with anyone who will listen. Poor customer service has the potential to affect public perception and drive customers away from certain retailers.
Video: Best Places to Shop Online for Fashion
LOTC tip: Keep an eye on the DealNews Black Friday hub for news, ads and advice. The site has already posted its predictions for what kinds of deals you can expect to find on Black Friday 2012.