The Insider's Guide to Black Friday Bargains
Get an In-Store Price-Match Guarantee
Hot tip: Many large stores provide price-matching guarantees. Brick-and-mortar stores that offer this benefit post signs in multiple locations to alert customers about the policy. Typically retailers will match the price of any local competing store, and some, including online locations, will match a lower price offered by the same store within 30 days.
No purchase from a store that offers a price-matching guarantee is complete without your registering the item on PriceProtectr. This Web site will alert you by e-mail if the price of your purchased product drops within 30 days of the sale. If the price drops, you can approach the store with your receipt and evidence of the new, lower price to receive a refund. Last year, PriceProtectr saved me more than $100.
Note that if you purchased an item early and the store later puts that item on sale for Black Friday, the store might not consider the deep discounts valid for price-matching guarantees. Black Friday is often an exception in these policies.
Manage the Information Overload
Dealnews.com posts only confirmed Black Friday deals as the date approaches, but other Web sites, such as Black Friday 2008, rely on insiders to provide early ads representing the most likely bargains for a variety of stores. SlickDeals.net offers frequent updates with the latest bargains and coupons--particularly for electronic items--throughout the entire year.
Dealnews.com's de Grandpre warns shoppers to be cautious of Web sites that claim to have "leaked" Black Friday ads.
"Some of the information is inaccurate," he says. "For example, they may get an early version of the newspaper ad that changes later. And often the information is incomplete, since retailers withhold some of their best offers from the newspaper ads."
Leaked ads are interesting to skim, but don't plan on jumping on a deal until it is confirmed. Web sites that display early, leaked advertisements will often follow up with a confirmation notice once the stores announce the deals to the public, and will present corrections and additions at that time.
Let Your Mobile Phone Assist You
Customers armed with the new T-Mobile G1 smart phone can access software that uses the phone's camera to scan product UPC symbols and automatically search online for best prices--and, if you wish, it lets you buy the item from an online retailer. The process is user-friendly.
If your phone does not have that capability but it can access the Internet, consulting pricing and comparison sites such as PC World's Shop & Compare is the next best thing. Doing this allows you to search for your product across multiple online stores to find the best price available. You can access information immediately and make a decision about a purchase before someone else walks out with the HDTV you have your eye on.
Don't forget the power of Google. The search giant allows visitors to subscribe to search results via RSS and to create e-mail alerts. Using such options instructs Google to scour the Internet for you while you're away from your PC. If you redirect your e-mail to your cell phone while you're out shopping on Black Friday, you can receive targeted alerts while on the move.
Hitting Real-World Stores
If you insist on venturing into the wilds of Black Friday crowds, we have a bit of advice.
- Go to sleep early on Thanksgiving night so you can wake up before the sun rises on Black Friday. You may have only one chance to get this right, and in highly populated areas, the effort will involve arriving hours before the doors open and standing in a line.
- Look quickly: Many of the most popular items are offered at low prices as "door-busters." These products are kept in short supply and will fly off the shelves.
- Stay alert for quiet sales. While you are focused on your shopping mission, keep your eyes open for surprise discounts. Stores don't advertise every product they sell, so you may come across unexpected deals as you browse.
Several PC World readers have been offering their own tricks while commenting on a recent Black Friday blog post.
Reader mpheadley shares this tip: "Go with two people to a store, both having cell phones. Have one person get some of the easy, not so in-demand things. Have that person go to the checkout line, and continually let other people in front of them until the other person gets back."
Probably the wisest information in this respect, however, comes from reader AuroraDizon: Don't "get too loggy or drunk on Thanksgiving so you can get up and go to do your research, compare prices, and then decide on the few stores you want to hit in the limited time [you have]."
Luke Landes writes for the blog Consumerism Commentary , where he encourages conversations about consumer issues and personal finance.