Quick Guide to Black Friday Sales

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Since it’s November, it’s time to talk about Black Friday AKA the day after Thanksgiving. Somehow, this has turned into the #1 shopping day of the year with stores offer deep discounts like $200 laptops to get people in the door. In turn, these deep discounts have led to special websites which leak the upcoming deals way ahead of time.

Why? So people can game the system by doing one of the following:

Rebuy. If you know that, for example, the Xbox 360 is going to be on sale for $50 on Black Friday, you go and buy it a week or two beforehand for retail price. Then, on Black Friday, you strut past all the hordes, march up to the customer service desk, asking for a pricematch to the new price. In essence, you are (1) returning the item for full price and the (2) buying it back right away for the sale price. Thus the term “rebuy”. Worst case scenario, they refuse and you simply return the item.

Hide-away. As opposed to lay-away, this method is in response to some stores implementing policies to limit rebuying. Here you simply hide the sale item somewhere. Ideas include bottom or top shelves, behind less popular items, inside large appliances, or even above bathroom ceiling tiles. Then on Black Friday, you just grab your item, and coolly check out while the cashier eyes you suspiciously.

Those are the more creative tricks. Other more standard options include pricematching with competitor stores, arriving really early or even camping out all night, or waiting until the stroke of midnight on Friday and buying the item online.

Now, I have never done any of these things, except maybe buying something online. If you talk about deals being “not worth the trouble”, this is what I personally feel is not worth the trouble. Mostly because it involves multiple trips, lots of time and gas, and dealing with masses of people on what should be a day off. I’m always afraid some crazies are going to maul me for that $20 DVD player.

I’ll stick with leftover turkey, college football, and traditional family drama, thank you very much 🙂

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  1. Correction on your “rebuy” part. The worse case scenario is actually you get turned down, so you return the item, and you are therefore screwed out of the opportunity of actually having been able to buy the item at the advertised BF price…:-(

  2. I suppose that is the absolute worst case theoretically. But if you can’t buy it, that just means there is no extra items on the shelves anyways. That scenario assumes that the *one item* that you bought ahead of time, was the one item that would the left on the shelf, which you could have then picked up and bought for the advertised price.

  3. I don’t believe the scenario I mentioned assumes that. You said in the beginning of your post that you don’t wait in line…but in your comment you imply that you would have had the opportunity to buy it had there been one left, the one being the item you purchased beforehand. We both know this isn’t true, because if you weren’t in line, there would never have been enough, regardless. In this game, there are three choices:

    (1) You go in solely to do a return/rebuy, and if you are turned down, oh well, because you didn’t plan on getting in line to buy an advertised item. Regardless of whether you purchased one before, you did not have plans to get one, so everyone else got them instead.

    (2) You buy one ahead of time to do a return/rebuy, but you also wait in line to purchase one on BF at the advertised price (successful or not) and then do a return/rebuy, possibly leaving with 0 (you were to late in line and unsuccessful in return/rebuy), 1 (successful in line, but not return/rebuy OR too late in line, but successful at return/rebuy) or 2 (successful in line and in the return/rebuy). The one that you purchased beforehand would only be a factor if you were in line and were one person too late. This would only really be a matter if you were also unsuccessful in the return/rebuy.

    (3) You buy nothing ahead of time and wait solely in line to buy on BF at the advertised price. You either are too late in line or are successful.

    I think therefore, you have to say that the worse case scenario IS scenario (1). (2) gives you two different ways of walking out with the item, which is a combination of (1) and (3) so that’s the best way to approach this. (3) is a bad situation too if you lose out, but you have more control over this because of when you decide to get there. But (1) is the worst because not only do you have no control, you didn’t have the backup of simply waiting in line in case the return/rebuy is unsuccessful.

    So either you’re saying you support choice (1) and therefore we’re in agreement that that is the worse case scenario, or you are choosing (2), in which case I believe it’s not. But you have to specify whether you wait in line or not, which is basically their main difference.

  4. I guess in my mind the whole rebuy scenario inherently means no waiting in line or camping out. You just go back in late in the day to do the rebuy, avoiding lines. Isn’t that the whole point? Why would someone buy ahead of time and then go back early when it’s crowded just to stand in line to return? That doesn’t make any sense. If you’re going to wait in a line, of course try to get the item.

  5. Jonathan is right.

    Return/rebuy is more like “I want your price protection because its cheaper today than last week” and is done at the return desk/customers service and not in a normal line. Worst case scenario is they won’t do it and you leave. You’ve only wasted your original trip and your return trip.

    I have never heard of anyone returning a sale item and getting back in the general line to buy the item – that is rediculous and not my experience, ever.

    Unless you tried to go to customer service AFTER xmas, its not going to be too crowded.

  6. I choose secret option#4: Skip the whole thing and sleep in.

  7. Jonathan,

    You are missing the point. Michael is right. If you REALLY want the item at the BF price, you have to go with Michael’s option #2. You cannot just stand in line hoping to get the item. It might already be sold out before your turn comes. You have to buy one beforehand as a back up. You still stand in line in hope to get one more. Then you go to the customer service desk and try to price match. That why you are covering all the bases. If you still fail, there’s nothing more you could have done. You tried your best. That’s the whole point.


  8. Wow – this all seems like too much work unless you are shopping at the store anyway. Pretty soon people will be foregoing the turkey on Thanksgiving because they’ll need their wit for the mad dash on Friday morning.

  9. Of course, of interest to this audience, you don’t go buy the $20 DVD player, you buy the $200 laptop and sell it on Ebay. Despite wind chills well below freezing where I go to visit my Best Buy on Black Friday, I always have a great time getting there 4 hours early, standing around chatting with friends (maybe watching a DVD or 2), then getting an extremely low priced laptop and desktop, selling both on Ebay and making a cool $500 for a couple hours of lost sleep. It’s tradition!

  10. Wow. Reading all of Michael’s post was my worst case scenario for today…

  11. I think you got the right idea about staying in on Friday. Last year I “camped out” for the laptop at Wal-mart. People were all chumy at least for the first couple of hours. Then the people started piling up in every direction. Tension was thick. Then they wheeled the laptops out. A massive wall of humans came crashing in. I was right in front of the laptops, so it was actually quite dangerous. Not worth it.

  12. Hey, for those that like this kind of thing, more power to ya 🙂

  13. Now that you posted about rebuying, people are now onto the system. The return desks will be inundated with rebuyers!

    On Black Friday 2004, I stood in line at Best Buy for hours for a $400 laptop that sold out in minutes. I didn’t get one. But I still like Black Friday shopping. It’s better than going to the office.

  14. Professor – Not sure if you were kidding or not, but while I think this system may have been a little bit secret in 2004, by now it has been covered in various major media outlets, all of which have 1000x the readership of this tiny little blog 🙂

  15. Savvy Samurai says

    I agree with Nickel. After waiting in line for 3 hours to get into Fry’s and then another 2 hour line to make a purchase, I vowed never to do that again. Sure, you might get a great deal, but time is money too.

  16. savvy saver says

    Rebuying doesn’t usually work on the really, really good deals because the stores often have specific model numbers just for Black Friday. You may have bought an item with the exact same specifications, but the model numbers or SKUs may be different, so the won’t match the price.

  17. I really hadn’t heard of rebuying from the media.

  18. Really? I actually saw the gottadeal site on CNN just a few days ago.

  19. SavingEverything says

    i thought stores have the following policy: “Black Friday Sale Prices are in effect for a limited time, while supplies last” and “…reserve the right to deny any return.”

  20. Can anybody say “get a rain check”? Works nearly every time. No need to go through all the re-buying hassle and tassle when you can just lock in the price on the things you want through a written contract and come back and buy it later at the BF advertised price. My mom has been doing this for years.

    In fact, sometimes she occasionally finds prices better prices online that Friday than the ones advertised in-store on BF and gets a price match on the items she plans to buy with rain checks. She comes in when they call to tell her that the item is finally available and gets it at the online BF price.

    And of course, she pays with her airline mileage and/or cashback credit card that has Rewards Network and Upromise both linked to it.

    Just a thought. 🙂

  21. At Best Buy, this didn’t work. The Black Friday circular specifically said on the front page that there were no rain checks, and price matching (from other stores) and price adjusting (from Best Buy itself) would not be honored on and item in the circular.

    In addition, I tried it anyway, and the returns dept turned me down – at 2 different Best Buys. Oh well….

  22. Nope, no rain checks on Friday or Saturday at the stores I went too. I totally missed the doorbuster items and took a long shot 🙂

  23. Yoummy! What a great information!! thanx!!!i

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