Tips for Making Black Friday Not So Scary

The term "Black Friday" sends shivers down my spine in fear and excitement. Fear that if I don't go shopping the day after Thanksgiving, I might be missing the deal of a lifetime. And excitement because the deal of a lifetime is just waiting for me. Some years I've ventured out and other years I've just nursed my food hangover. This year, I'm due for a Black Friday adventure so I asked Todd Marks, an editor at Consumer Reports magazine, for some advice. Here's what he had to say:

So is Black Friday going to be crazy this year?
Of course it is. It's become ritualistic. It doesn't even matter whether it's a year where they're predicting huge economic windfalls or a year where they're predicting people not spending as much as they had in previous years. It's become ingrained in our culture. It's like the Super Bowl when even non-football fans watch the game. Not only are people starting their shopping earlier, the sale activity has begun very early this year. That suggests there's going to be a lot of wheeling and dealing this year.

Are Black Friday sales for real?
They are real to the extent that they're offering substantial or tangible benefits to the consumer, be it free shipping or discounts for shopping at certain parts of the day.

So what are your best tips for those of us crazy enough to venture out on Black Friday?

• Do your homework to make sure you're going to get a good deal. Check sites like FatWallet.com, BlackFridayAds.com, GottaDeal.com, DealTaker.com. A lot of them will have Black Friday ads, coupons for extra savings and what the specials are at various chains. You can also sign up for e-mails at various stores to find out about the good deals coming. You can find out which [items] come with rebates and which [stores] are offering free shipping. Another site is CouponCabin. They feature promotional codes which can offer shoppers more savings.

• Save a trip to the store by checking out the retailer Web site. A lot of them offer consumers the chance to purchase the item online and pick it up locally to save on shipping fees.

• Weigh the risks and rewards of pre-dawn sales and midnight madness sales. They want to sell a few items at or below cost to get you into the store. Their goal is for you to purchase more profitable merchandise.

• Don't assume that the best deals are on Black Friday. It's really too early to tell how deeply the retailers are going to be forced to cut prices to boost the bottom line and get stuff off the shelves. Many merchants are reacting to the intense competition by cutting prices up to 50 percent and then dangling bonus coupons for shoppers to shop at slow parts of the day. Don't be fooled. It's not as though if you don't shop on black Friday you'll be forced to pay full price if you delay shopping a bit.

• Ask the retailer if they have a guaranteed lowest price policy. That would entitle you to a refund for the difference that you paid if the item is available for less within a specified time period.

•Arrive at your favorite store early before the doors open. The nice thing for early birds is they get to choose from an entire range of merchandise before its been picked through.

• If you're planning a big ticket purchase at a major retailer, you can get savings through instant charge cards. They usually offer an extra 10 percent off. Use the card for this one purchase, pay the balance off quickly and cut up the card.

• Be aware of return policies. Retailers are becoming stricter when it comes to enforcing the rules. Get gift receipts. If you don't have one, you'll get a store credit or a gift card for the lowest price the item sold for which may not be what you paid.

• Don't open packages of electronics items that you're really not sure you want. Restocking fees can be 5 to 25 percent.

Are you going to be out there on Black Friday?
I may make mine purple Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, while everyone's at the grocery store.

So what are your tips for shopping on Black Friday?

By Tania Anderson |  November 20, 2007; 3:00 AM ET General Interest , Holidays and Special Occasions
Previous: Clicking for Photo Deals | Next: Black Friday Morning: Tamer Than Expected

Comments

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I am waiting until early Saturday morning to shop. Yes, maybe it'll not be the best selection, but as the article said, I'll get there when the doors open and have the best selection otherwise (I hope!).

Posted by: slowshopper | November 20, 2007 8:03 AM

Since I'm working Friday, I too will make it a "purple wednesday". I usually avoid any retail outlet the day after thanksgiving anyway.

Posted by: no black friday for me | November 20, 2007 9:09 AM

I plan on going to a couple stores. Friday morning, but not any earlier then 8 am.

Posted by: mixed miami | November 20, 2007 10:08 AM

My first defense is to get plenty of sleep Thursday night, so that I won't be cranky, and so I'll have energy to deal with the other cranky people.

Second, I'm going to have at least one tall non-fat latte and a breakfast that includes plenty of protein and some complex carbs (thinking fruit and yogurt w/ almonds and granola) to fight hunger and keep me energized.

Third, I'm going to load up my PDA with serene music (Yanni, Sarah Brightman, Josh Groban and Enigma, among others) so that I can block out the crowd noise. I'll keep it low enough to hear announcements, but high enough to escape in the midst of all the cursing adults and crying kids.

Fourth, I'm wearing some ultra comfy shoes. I found these great slippers by American Eagle at Payless that are soft, but look good enough to wear in public.

Last, I'm just going to relax, and do my best to enjoy the bargains, buy a few things for myself, and at the end of the day, I'm going to treat myself to a warm bubble bath and have some pie for getting through the day.

Posted by: YourStrawberry23 | November 20, 2007 10:19 AM

I LOVE using DealTaker.com. Glad you mentioned it here. I've actually gotten a decent amount of my shopping done through their website already.

Also, their Black Friday section has TONS of deals already available online which I've taken advantage of too.

Posted by: Dylan | November 20, 2007 11:50 AM

Your article about Black Friday fails to mention the Number One black Friday site out there: http://BFAds.net

BFAds.net is the "Google" of Black Friday web sites.

I been using this site for the last two years. They are by far the best BlackFriday Site out there.

John - 5 year black friay shopper

Posted by: John | November 20, 2007 1:16 PM

I would like to know why the Friday after Thanksgiving is refered to as "black friday"?

Posted by: Sandy | November 20, 2007 2:21 PM

Black Friday got its name because the Friday after Thanksgiving was the day that many people shopped for holiday gifts, putting lots of cash in the hands of retailers. Stores were able to get their financials in the black, which means they got back to being profitable.

Posted by: Tania Anderson | November 20, 2007 4:43 PM

Your article about Black Friday fails to mention another Black Friday site out there: http://www.Deals2save.com

Deals2save.com is a great Black Friday web site.

I been using this site for the last 3 years.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 20, 2007 11:38 PM

Do these Black Friday ads and coupons sites include coupons that can be used online or at outlet stores? I know that many stores don't allow coupons to be used at their outlet locations, which is where I'll be shopping on Friday.

Posted by: YourStrawberry23 | November 21, 2007 10:06 AM

Retailer charge cards are real credit cards. Opening and closing accounts can and does affect your credit record. Don't do this pell-mell to save a few bucks.

Posted by: Blosts | November 21, 2007 11:10 AM

When do the Black Friday ads come out in the Washington Post?

Posted by: Jamster | November 21, 2007 2:05 PM

Hey Tania, What happened to your published email address? I sent you a note at the shoptoit address but it came back undeliverable. Is there a way to reach you other than posting here? The people at the WP offices couldn't help, so I'm left to post here.

I wanted to suggest an idea about shopping with inventors for unique gifts and don't want to break rules by posting specifics here. What can I do? Thanks!

Victoria
--a local inventor and NOT a Black Friday shopper

Posted by: Victoria | November 21, 2007 5:14 PM

I'd like to invite you to check out my company's coupon site Shopping-Bargains.com (http://www.shopping-bargains.com). We've been around since 1999 and have coupon codes and bargains for more than 1,000 online stores.

It's free and no registration or login is required. We're members of the BBBOnline Reliability Program and HACKER SAFE certified.

Posted by: Mike | November 21, 2007 10:48 PM

I find that impulse buying is what sets me off budget. I'm far better off to pay full price and stick to my list.

The more time I spend in stores the more I buy, and oftentimes I am the person I'm buying for.

So my "Black Friday" move is to put my list together.

Posted by: RoseG | November 23, 2007 6:44 AM

When shopping, I travel to the entrance closest to the store where I want to shop, and enter. I do not enjoy the intensity found in croweded malls, therefore, I am not a Black Friday shopper.

But I am absolutely delighted with the references offered. Thank you. I shall share them with others.

Thanks for a great article and the chance to read the thoughts of others.

Posted by: Anna K. | November 23, 2007 9:40 AM

Hi, I'm reporting from the Mid-western front. I never go out "Black Friday". The only reason I did was because I did not make it to Fredericksburg, VA to have Thanksgiving with family. Anyway, I hit Michaels well before 6AM to get the Cricut Complete scrapbook machine. Only $129. Thanksgiving day I checked every ad and every website to make sure was getting a good deal. Mission accomplished. I would have been suicidal had I gotten up that early and didn't land this item. I got one of the last in the store. Sweet.

Posted by: kweenbee | November 23, 2007 1:02 PM

I am not going shopping today. I feel as a black woman the thought of a day call black friday is degrading. people need to wake up and realized what people really think of us. the Meaning of this day is to get great deals on Material things why couldn't they name it something else why do it has to be call BLACK Friday. why not Poor Man Rich Man day !!!!!!!

Posted by: cynthia | November 23, 2007 1:25 PM

Why would anyone assume that "Black Friday" had anything to do with the color of anyone's skin?! It's just about retailer's getting out of the "red"--does that mean American Indian people should be offended? Not everything in the world is out to get you.

Posted by: Jianna | November 23, 2007 1:33 PM

As a black woman, I can't believe Cynthia is so mis-informed. C'mon, gimme a break. It's one thing not to fall for the consumerism of "Black Friday". But to think someone is actually taking a dig at you and others is crazy. Believe me, not all of us are that paranoid.

Posted by: Saige's Mom | November 23, 2007 1:41 PM

Same Day Charge Cards
You do your readers a serious disservice by telling them to pay the charge off and cuT up the card. If they do they will have a line of credit on their reports that will prevent them from possibly getting credit they want, like say a mortgage. When you open a number of these accounts to save 10% you create a debt potential that scares new issurers away. PAY IT OFF, WRITE THE CREDITOR CLOSING THE ACCOUNT AND ASK THAT THE CREDIT NOTIFY ALL THREE BUREAUS THAT THE ACCOUNT WAS CLOSED BY YOUR REQUEST.

Posted by: CW | November 23, 2007 1:55 PM

Sorry for the e-mail troubles Victoria. I believe the address is working now. Please write to me at shoptoit@washingtonpost.com. Thanks.

Posted by: Tania Anderson | November 26, 2007 8:15 PM

Gift cards are rip offs. Most won't give you change if you buy something for less than the card amount. So the leftover 75 cents or more goes into the pocket of the store. Multiply that by several million. Instead give cash, check, consumables (foods or soaps too fancy for a person to buy for themselves), movie passes(make sure the theater doesn't keep pass holders out of brand new movies). Or best of all, take your friend/relative out to lunch at a local mom and pop restaurant...try to spend money at local businesses.

Posted by: Cordy | December 27, 2007 10:09 PM

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