Black Friday Shopping – Retailers “Dirty Secrets”

By Randall Orser | holiday season

Black Friday is upon us once again, and we have been bombarded with ads on tv and social media for the last few weeks.  Black Friday started in 1932 in the U.S. when it was considered the start of the Christmas Shopping season.  The name Black Friday originated from the most popular idea that businesses ran at a loss or “in the red” from January to November, but on the day after American Thanksgiving they would return to “operating in the black”. 

Nowadays people shop in person (if they are crazy), or online if they want to buy in the comfort of home.  Though Cyber Monday has now eclipsed Black Friday, it is still a huge shopping day when millions of consumers hunt for bargains and retailers find new and ingenious ways to get them to part with their money.  Here are some of the traps that shoppers can fall into if they are not careful:

Doorbuster Deals” are Scarce – although ads are not allowed to be totally misleading, or tell you something that is untrue, it can tell you something without focusing on the details.  For instance, that ad announcing 60% off a TV will also have small print to tell you that quantities are limited especially if it is a doorbuster deal, so even if you camp out all night you shouldn’t count on getting one.  Although these deals are known as “loss leaders” and stores certainly lose money on them, they recoup it and much more when people hoping to get the deal stay in the store and spend more money.  

Deals Often Require you to do Extra Work – When you see a heavily discounted product you may also see (after mail in rebate).  That means that you will pay the full price on the day and you will have to wait to get your money back, which could take some time.  Meanwhile stores are hoping that with the Christmas rush and activities you forget to claim it which is true for millions of people.

Price Matching Disappears Black Friday week – Most of the year retailers are happy to price match as it makes sense for them to make a smaller profit rather than none at all.  However, some retailers will have purchased extra stock of items at a cheaper price so they can offer doorbuster deals, heavy discounted promotions or be ready to take a loss to lure in customers.  Their competitors will not honour these discounted prices as it may mean that they will lose too much money.

Before and After Prices can be Sketchy – Consumers are easily persuaded to buy an item when they see “Was $100 now $60, and similar offers.  Be aware that retailers can offer an item at $99.99 and then on Black Friday “50% off now $99.99,”  same item, same price but the perception that the price is heavily discounted is more likely to create a sale.  Stores are able to get around the legality of this by being able to use a base price to discount from even if the item has only been at that base price for only one day out of the year.  They can also use a “suggested retail price” as their base price even it is ridiculously high.   Some stores actually charge more for an item on Black Friday than they do for the rest of the year when the item is on sale, hoping that consumers will buy into the signage and the shopping frenzy. You can also see “Before” pricing that was the price when the item first came into the store, when in reality it has been selling for 50% off for many months, so any “deal” that you are getting on Black Friday may only be a small amount off the previous regular price not actually 50% off that price. 

Watch out for Time Sensitive Deals – When checking out those ads make sure to read the small print to see if there is a time period when the item will be at that price.  The idea behind the time limit is to create a false sense of urgency and a shopping frenzy.  You can expect the price to go up significantly when the sale time is over.  You might see an item at $10 at 8am, it goes up to $20 at 10am and is $30 by noon so it is not a good idea to shop around in this case. 

Many Black Friday Deals are Discontinued, Obsolete or Poor Sellers – Black Friday is a wonderful opportunity for retailers to get rid of dead stock, so beware if that something seems to be a good deal, make sure that you are still able to get refills etc. for it and that it is not obsolete.  You might also see products that are a poorer stripped-down cousin to the one that you actually want.    Rule of thumb is always if it seems too good to be true then it usually is.

Retailers Want you to Shop In-store not On-line -  They create a Black Friday shopping frenzy on purpose to attract you into their brick and mortar stores so that you will spend more than you planned to.   However, shopping on-line is making the rush to stores obsolete, you can find the same Black Friday deals the same day or even the week before.

So, make sure that you aware of all the “tricks of the trade” before you rush out to get that deal on Black Friday.   It is really just a day of bargain shopping, some prices will be good, but some items will be available at the same price or better on other days.  If you don’t need to have the item straightaway, consider avoiding the rush and buying on-line.

From an article by Paul Suggett

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President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.