3 Reasons Why Some Black Friday Sales Aren't What They Seem

You’re probably aware that Black Friday is a popular time to shop. But for context, Capital One Shopping says U.S. consumers spend almost $10 billion shopping online during Black Friday. And with the addition of in-store spending that day, U.S. retail revenue for Black Friday exceeds $20 billion.

Capital One also says the typical shopper spends an estimated $480 on Black Friday. That’s not a small amount of money.

Of course, your motivation to shop on Black Friday may be to save money on a host of purchases. But are you really going to be looking at a lower credit card tab that day?

Black Friday indeed tends to be loaded with sales. But here’s why some of those sales aren’t what they seem.

1. The original price has been inflated

If you notice a $50 item marked down to $25, you may be inclined to jump on it. After all, you’re getting 50% off the original price, right?

Well, not necessarily. There’s no law stating that retailers can’t inflate prices on the items they sell and then conveniently mark them down so it appears as if the savings at hand are huge. But what if the $50 item you’re looking at was really only originally priced at $35? Suddenly, your discount isn’t as deep.

It pays to make a list of the items you want at the start of the holiday shopping season and use a price-tracking app to keep tabs on their cost. Also, jot down prices a few weeks before Black Friday so you can see if the so-called original prices have been inflated or not.

2. The item you’re getting may be a lower-quality derivative version

The amazingly low-priced TVs and laptops you see on Black Friday may not be the items you think they are. Rather, they may be lower-quality derivatives of the electronics you normally see on shelves.

Retailers commonly partner with manufacturers to produce Black Friday versions of popular products. The problem is that these special runs tend to result in items that are lower in quality — hence retailers’ ability to offer up much lower prices.

If you intend to buy electronics on Black Friday, make a list of the items you want along with their model numbers. Then, on Black Friday, check for those model numbers. If they’re different, it means you’re getting a different version of the item you thought you were getting. And while you may be OK with that if the price works better for you, just know that your product may not last as long or perform as well.

3. There’s only a limited quantity of the item you want

Retailers will often try to lure customers in on Black Friday by offering doorbuster deals — popular items at incredibly low prices. But for all you know, your local retailer only has four or five of each doorbuster item in stock. So yes, while the advertised price may be legitimate, you’re not getting a fair shot at the items you want.

This tactic is problematic not just because you might end up disappointed, but also because you might feel compelled to make a comparable purchase in the absence of getting the product you were initially looking for. Only that comparable purchase might cost you a lot more money.

You should expect to see your fair share of Black Friday sales this year. Whether they’re really good deals or not, however, is up for debate. Do your best to shop savvily, so you don’t end up regretting your purchases.

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