This isn’t going to be a typical Black Friday article because Mark (who has asked me to change his real name so that nobody will know who I’m talking about, but which I find absolutely hilarious because any friend will instantly know who I am talking about even with the changed name) is not a normal Black Friday shopper. He lives for this day and prides himself (brags endlessly?) on coming home with all the best deals from the Black Friday fliers while the competition is left crying because they didn’t get the things that they wanted. These are his strategies…
But before we get into those, I need to inject a disclaimer on my part. While I do admire Mark for his determination and cunning in getting the best Black Friday deals, I do disagree on one major point. Mark goes out and purchases anything which he sees as an outstanding deal. I, on the other hand, believe that if it is something that you wouldn’t normally buy or something that you really don’t need, it’s a waste of money no matter how good the price. So while I will relate the strategies that Mark uses, I would encourage you only to use them if there is something that you were already planning to purchase. And onto the strategies…
“If you start preparing a week before Black Friday, you’ve already taken out 90% of the competition”
Preparation is key to getting what you want on Black Friday. The best deals are usually offered in limited supplies and most people don’t decide where they will go or what exactly they want until the day before. As Mark said with a chuckle, “those people are lambs being lead to the slaughter.” What will happen is they will go to the store wanting something that they saw in the ads, but by the time they arrive, it will already be gone. Not wanting to “waste the trip,” they’ll end up buying something else (this is why retailers love Black Friday) that isn’t such a great deal.
The problem is that most shoppers start in the wrong place. They make the assumption that the Black Friday deals are found in the Black Friday advertisements. While this may seem like common sense, it’s a convenient distraction that allows Mark to have much less competition. As Mark pointed out with emphasis a number of times during our discussion, “the Black Friday deals are found in the store’s return policy.”
Before you even begin to look at the Black Friday advertisements, you want to know the store policy on returns. The question you need answered is if they lower price on an item that you have already purchased, will they refund the difference? If so, what time period (usually a month) is this service in effect? If the store will refund the difference on an item purchased for more on a prior date, then there is no need to wait in line to purchase that item on Black Friday. Simply go to the store the week before Black Friday and purchase the item. When Black Friday comes along, stroll into the store (conveniently bypassing all the lines and crowds of people fighting for what you are carrying — or even waiting until the afternoon when the crowds have thinned out a bit and all the items are already gone from the store) and ask for the difference. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder to get these deals. As Mark noted, “as more people have learned about this strategy, more stores are implementing a policy that price refunds are exempt for Black Friday even when they are in effect at other times.” Still, it’s worth finding out the policy because some stores do still allow this. Depending on how generous the stores are in your area, you can take care of quite a few items on your list this way.
The other problem that has arisen with more people learning of this method is that the items sell out quickly once the advertisements are sent out to everyone. There is an easy way around this mini stampede. More and more websites are placing up the Black Friday ads as soon as they are leaked. There are a number of sites that list these such as blackfriday.info. You can sign up and you will get an email notification each time a store’s Black Friday advertisement goes up. This will allow you to get to the store long before the ads go out in the newspapers.
If you use this method, it’s best to use a credit card that has a buyer protection clause. This will allow you to return the item within a certain period of time for any purchase you make. Sometimes stores don’t honor what they say they will and the credit card can be a good friend if you need to return the item (many credit cards have this protection, but check with your credit card company to make sure yours does)
For those items that can’t be secured by the above method, the next strategy is to utilize the power of the computer. While most stores don’t open until their regular hours (or possibly a few of hours early), if the store has a website, the Black Friday deals will likely take affect at the stroke of midnight. Quick use of the computer will allow you to add some more items on your want list while those out of the know are lining up outside stores “freezing their butts off in hopes of trying to score what you just bought with a click of a mouse in your cozy house.”
If there are items that can’t be obtained in the above two ways, there is still a method you can use to get items without getting up early to stand in line. You want to find which stores will “price match” the competition’s Black Friday ads. With so much competition on this day to bring customers in, many stores will agree to sell items for the same price that a competitor is advertising even if it is marked at a higher price at their store. The key to utilizing this strategy is to go to the store that has the highest advertised prices (or better yet, a store that has the item in stock, but chose not to include it in their Black Friday advertisement) which will price match. While everyone is pushing and shoving to get the limited supply at the store which advertised the rock-bottom prices after spending hours in line, you can stroll in at opening time and get what you want for the same price. You will usually have to bring in the competing store’s advertisement to get their price matched.
NOTE: While I was going to leave out the following two methods, Mark insisted that I should include them so that people know what others are doing to secure Black Friday items and what they are up against.
If there is something that you must have and you don’t believe that any of the methods previously mentioned will work, you can be ruthless (and the reason I believe Mark wanted me to change his name) by hiding the item you want within the store before Black Friday. While not something that most people would consider fair, it goes on a lot more than people would suspect. You take the items and hide it in some area of the store where only you will know where it is. Then on Black Friday you go to the hiding place and get the item while everyone else in the store is fighting for the same item it the area where they are regularly kept.
Another devious way to secure popular items is to bribe friends that are working at the store to place them to the side for you or purchase the item for you before the store opens to the general public. Since many employees also get a store discount, Mark pays the advertised price and the employee friend receives their employee discount in cash for their effort.
While I do not encourage anyone to use the devious methods, the above shows that if you play the system, you can increase the chances of getting the Black Friday items you want without getting up early and standing in line like you probably thought you’d have to.