Share your Black Friday stories, thoughts, and strategies

By Will Chen on 18 November 2007 (Updated 12 December 2007) 107 comments
Photo: dalangalma

What are your thoughts on Black Friday? Is it the most ridiculous shopping frenzy of the year, or a perfect time to pick up insane savings?

Do you have any tips, stories, or comments about Black Friday?

Share them with us in the comments! You will be automatically entered in our weekly drawing to win a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate. This drawing is over. Congrats to Chief Family Officer for winning. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Here are some tips on beating Black Friday.

Do your research ahead of time

The actual Black Friday print ads from all the major stores have been scanned and made available online. Check out the ads early to get a good idea of what you want to target:

Find price comparison and product reviews here:

Too lazy to do your own research? Check out these blogs and forums for leads on the hottest buys:

Get the following information from stores

  • What's the return policy? Many stores have special policies that apply to Black Friday purchases only.
  • Will they price match against their competitors? If several stores offer price matching for the product you are targeting, go to the store that is selling it at the highest price. Most likely the store with the highest price will have less people and less inventory shortages.
  • Will they price match against their newer prices? Some stores guarantee that if their prices change within 30 days of your purchase, they will match their own lower prices and refund you the difference. This basically means you can start shopping now and take advantage of Black Friday prices today!
  • Are you giving up any warranties or guarantees normally associated with the product? Make sure you are not surprised by any unusual conditions.
  • Get the logistics. Does the store have special rules for lining up? Where are the other branches located at? Are there any limits for hot items like iPhones?

On Black Friday all bets are off. Even retailers who are usually trustworthy can surprise you with very unfriendly rules. Figure them out now.

Use a credit card

Some credit card companies will allow you to:

  • Return items for a full refund if you have a good faith dispute with a merchant.
  • Extend warranties on certain purchases.
  • Obtain insurance on certain purchases.
  • Obtain insurance on certain shipping options.
  • Get special rewards for shopping at specific stores.
  • Obtain more credit for the holiday season (I highly recommend against this unless you intend to pay this off right away, or if you are using the higher credit limit to stack up reward points).

Call you credit card company ahead of time and figure out the policies.

Don't fall for scams

Be aware of the following scams:

  • Bait and switch: Make sure you are getting the model advertised and not a "comparable" model.
  • Package scams: If the item can only be purchased as part of a larger package, be certain the other items are things you really need.
  • Extended warranties: Say no to extended warranties. They are almost always a scam.
  • Refurbished deals: Many stores sell refurbished items "as new." This practice is especially hard to catch during Black Friday when all the packaging are a bit worse for wear due to the shopping frenzy.

Be aware of shortages on popular items

Kim Palmer, one of my favorite consumer rights columnists, recently pointed out that:

If there's something that's special that you want somebody to have, you have to be careful. Retailers haven't ordered as much this year, so inventories won't be as high. I think the first or second time it goes on sale you should get it, because it won't be around if it's a great item. How to shop like an expert: US News & World Report

Kim also has other great consumer tips on how to prevent holiday shopping fraud and the danger of turning kids into shoppers. Make sure you check out her column before braving the holiday shopping frenzy.

Bring your own bags and dollies

Shopping carts and bags will be scarce. Bring hefty trash bags and foldable dollies if necessary.

Bribe an employee

I'm not talking about money because you might get people fired. But other things work just as well. A kind word, a nice smile, or maybe a piece of candy might make the difference between "we're out of stock" and "let me check on that for you in the back.... we might have some left."

Price check with cell phone

Program your phone with these websites handy:

If your phone can't access websites, have a friend stay at home and check prices for you in real time.

Shop in teams

Get more coverage by dividing up the stores among your friends and family. You hit Circuit City and Grandma can take Wal-Mart. However, some stores have limits on how many items one customer can purchase per visit. Make sure the merchandise you are buying are not subject to such limits.

Special tips for online shoppers

  • Sign up for store newsletters. Many of these newsletters will have special coupon codes not available to the public.
  • Cyber Monday starts at November 26, 12:00 am. Make sure you got plenty of sleep on Sunday afternoon so you can shop until you drop.
  • Know your customer status. Some stores offer different deals for new customers only. Before you buy an item, try clearing the cookies and cache in your browser and signing up for another customer account using a different email and billing information. You might just receive a new customer discount.

Do you have any tips, stories, or comments about Black Friday?

Leave a comment and you will be automatically entered in our weekly drawing to win a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate. Deadline to enter is 11/25. Only one entry per person will be counted. This drawing is over. Congrats to Chief Family Officer for winning. Thanks to everyone who participated.

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Guest's picture
Cecilia

I wouldn't mind Black friday, if the businesses were sensible. Forget cheap products for 10 folks. And just offer decent discounts to everyone. Why can't it be a one week event? Spread it out a bit. This would mean less crowds at a given moment. And very likely more shoppers in a one week period overall. I don't shop on Back Friday due to the crowds. Bet there are a ton of us!

Anyways I slept in that day. :)

Guest's picture

I refuse to spend money for the entire weekend after Thanksgiving. Actually, we are spending zero dollars on Christmas this year. That was my answer to the question, "What would Jesus do?"

Guest's picture
Marcia G

I have never participated in Black Friday, or the day after Christmas. I am 49 years old too!!! Never seem to have the money to. LOL!
count me in this contest for a $25 Amazon gift card please.

Guest's picture
Monique

Most black Fridays, I avoid the rush and shop online. This year I found many of the black Friday specials from Office Depot online at their web site and they had free shipping with no minimum order! Sure beats standing in line before it's even light out!

Guest's picture
Doreen

I've never gone shopping on Black Friday sales....

Guest's picture
Guest

Black Friday Yeah I did it once, years ago when Furbies were in demand we got up at 4am got to the mall at 430am waited a while then when we got to the toy store we had to form a line to get in they were only letting in so many people at a time within 10 minutes they were all sold out we tried other malls no luck that was the last time.So now it is 2008 and hear some of the stories employees tell us during check-out once Black Friday is done with,A man holding down a woman while his wife rips a lcd tv out of her hands and in another state an employee gets run over by the mob when opening the doors and dies.WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TOO WHEN YOU CAN NOT GO OUT SHOPPING WITH RISKING YOU LIFE.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have been going Black Friday shopping for 7 year i am 12 and my mom started taking me when i was 5. My mom was pretty smart because if she wanted something she made me go and face the mob and get since everyone saw a little cute small five year old they would help me get the stuff. Anyway if you want to get what you want on Black Friday you have to go with another person and split up into teams. Also get there EARLY believe me last year i went to Old Navy at Midnight we were the first one there but at like 12:30 people stared to come real quick. this year we are going to Walmart and during the day while my mom is making food my dad and i are going to set up a camp so we can get what we want. Another tip is to do your research go to website like bfads.net and whatever you are going to get look up on line to see if you need anything else with it ESPECIALLY with electronics check to see if you are going to need a case or memory card make a list. If you are going early like me take blankets and warm clothing and stuff to keep you entertained when the time comes to open the store have on your friends take everything back to the car. Finally be ready to run be careful though you might end up getting in a fight.