Beware of Sales, Including Black Friday

Beware of Sales, Including Black Friday
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Shoppers love sales, especially the annual Black Friday blow-outs. But are they really what they seem? Despite all the advertising, hype and hoopla, evidence suggests consumers should take a careful look before whipping out their credit cards.

A recent study by the British consumer organization Which? found that only one in seven (14%) of the deals on Black Friday offer a genuine discount. Instead, the study found, the vast majority of promotions are cheaper or the same price in the six months before the sales extravaganza.

Amazon was the worst U.S. retailer overall for dubious discounts in the UK, with more than 70 per cent of products included in Which?’s analysis cheaper at other times of the year compared to their Black Friday price.

A study in Australia turned up similar findings. There, the consumer group Choice said that retailers JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and Harvey Norman are misleading shoppers about their consumer rights ahead of Black Friday.

Choice mystery shoppers went to Australia’s largest appliance and electronics retailers, and uncovered what they called dodgy behavior at their stores. An investigation of 80 JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and Harvey Norman stores found 71 per cent are misleading shoppers about their rights if one of their products breaks after a manufacturer’s warranty period.

U.S. media lead the cheers

There’s not as much skepticism in the U.S. Wirecutter, the always chipper product review site of The New York Times, lends a cheerleading tone to the occasion, advising that, “TVs are the white whale of Black Friday. If snagging a brand-new, high-quality set at the best possible price is number one on your holiday shopping list, we can help.”

Consumer Reports takes a more sober tone but nonetheless lends an air of authenticity to the whole affair with an extensive list of “best buys,” including TVs, laptops, soundbars and other consumer gear. Some of the information is free but a subscription is required to unlock all of the data on the non-profit organization’s site.

ConsumerAffairs took a step back in its coverage of the annual salesfest. “Are there any are huge Black Friday discounts left?” it asked in its Nov. 23 edition. “When ConsumerAffairs went looking for the answer, the pickings were indeed slim,” according to reporter Gary Guthrie’s story.

“​​All retailers are competing for attention and if there is anything left it would be a very small quantity. Most likely, if you’re looking for something specific, there’s nothing left,” Hannah Nash, co-founder of LucyNash, said in the ConsumerAffairs report.

So where should a bargain-hunter go?

The places to go if you’re looking for a wide range of things are the major retailers such as Walmart and Target, shopping expert Mackenzie Shand told ConsumerAffairs. And those stores have some of the largest discounts, too, just because they buy so much from vendors, Guthrie’s story said.

Others advise just staying home.

“Our research shows that finding a good deal on Black Friday is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Reena Sewraz of Which?. “It’s rarely the cheapest time to shop and you’ll probably find the things you want are the same price or cheaper as we head towards Christmas, the New Year and beyond.”

The Mexican consumer news site (a sister site of also advises caution. “Although Black Friday can be a good time to shop, there are some precautions to take before buying,” editor Diego Marquez said in a recent story.

A time for caution

Besides looking for the best price, Marquez says consumers should be extra careful during the frenzied holiday season. He offered these precautions and tips before shopping on Black Friday:

Always check for any warranties – While some companies may offer limited warranties on their products during Black Friday, it’s always best to check the warranty beforehand and make sure exactly what it covers – you don’t want to buy something only to find out later that it has no backing from the manufacturer or seller!

Also make sure that where you buy from, they have a return policy in case the product is defective, doesn’t work or just for some personal reason you want to return it.

Try to have a clear idea of what you want to buy. Don’t rush into the store or look around aimlessly: it’s good to make a list and stick to it. And be sure to cross off items as you buy them so that no one tries to sell you something twice.

Protect your data – We live in a world where the value of our data is increasing. The more we use technology, the more valuable our data becomes. Whether we shop online or in physical stores, our data is a treasure that needs to be handled with care. We need to protect our data from hackers to avoid scams.

Data breaches can lead to identity theft, which can put your credit history at risk and even cause serious financial damage. The more data you have, the more valuable it is, so the idea is to know which sites are safe to shop on and which are not.

Always try to shop at secure websites or reputable physical stores. Use credit cards instead of debit cards so that there are no strange charges associated with your order, in case something goes wrong you can file a claim with the bank.

Go if you must …

If you’re really determined to hit the shops or online sites, be careful but don’t be too discouraged. There are some deals out there; it’s up to your to find them.

“Retailers are not blind to the extra pressures on people’s finances this year and will be keen to use Black Friday to attract people looking to get the most for their money, so we should still expect some deals. Our advice is to take the time to do some research if you want to find a genuine bargain,” said Reena Sewraz of Which?.