How I Used Internet Research to Avoid a Dumb Black Friday “Deal”

by Kevin on November 30, 2009

I shared some Black Friday tips (and warnings) last week. One warning in particular was to be aware of limited quantity “door buster” deals that every store uses to entice shoppers to come in early.

Today I’m going to show you a couple of things:

  • provide an direct example of why door buster deals are usually a waste of time,
  • evidence of how you could save $229 if you used my tips,
  • show you how I use the internet to save money — and time, and
  • a guideline to using these tips during the rest of the holiday shopping season

While I did go out on Black Friday — a quick run to Lowe’s for a Shop Vac and air compressor that were on sale — we didn’t do any standing in line, get up at 3am, and freeze to death waiting for the store to open shopping. I walked in at 8:10 to a mostly empty store, and walked out at 8:20 with the items I wanted.

Why not go after “door busters”? I think that’s stupid. That and I really prefer to do my shopping from home.  (Today is Cyber Monday and I’ll be scouting for good deals today.) Shopping from home gives me multiple store to choose from, and saves me time and hassle of shopping at a physical location — especially on Black Friday.

Sears’ Black Friday “Deal”

Over at one of my favorite deal tracking forums, Fat Wallet, someone put together an Excel spreadsheet of all of the Black Friday deals. You could use the spreadsheet to sort the deals by category (televisions, laptops, etc.) or by store.

I reviewed the spreadsheet looking for television deals. I was pretty sure nothing we were interested in was on sale, but just wanted to check.

According to the spreadsheet Sears had the Samsung LN46B650 LCD TV as a 4am door buster for $1,310. That’s the 46-inch and 120hz version of Samsung’s most recent LCD televisions (non-LED).

Another favorite website of mine to find deals and compare prices is Pricegrabber.com. It does just that — it goes out and finds prices from online retailers and lists them.

I hopped onto Pricegrabber and did a search for the LN46B650.

Sears’ door buster deal was $1,310. I could buy it online from a reputable vendor for less than that. I didn’t write the price down, but I want to say it was around $1,250. That price was also without tax and included free shipping.

Right off the bat the Sears deal was beaten. Not only was there a $60 price difference compared to the online retailer, but at Sears you would also have to pay tax. In my area that adds another 9% to the purchase price. That increases the Sears’ price to $1,428 and the price difference to $178.

A Little Patience for Additional Savings

It is late Sunday evening as I write this post. I decided to see where prices stood on that television. Were there any major changes? What was Sears’ price now?

The results may surprise you.

Samsung LN46B650 Pricing:

  • Sears’ Black Friday price: $1,310
  • Pricegrabber Black Friday lowest price (online vendor): $1,250
  • Sears’ price, two days later: $1,250 (possibly a Cyber Monday price)
  • Pricegrabber lowest price, two days later: $1,199 from BuyDig.com
  • Amazon’s price, two days later: $1,309 (no tax, no shipping)

That’s right. The price had dropped from the online retailers from $1,250 to $1,199. Another $51 worth of savings.

Also note that in two days time Sears’ had beat its own “great” deal by $60!

If you had purchased the TV at Sears on Black Friday in my area you paid $1,428. If you waited until today you could pay $1,199. That’s a $229 difference.

Bottom line: Patience + online research = significant savings.

How Much is Your Time Worth?

You heard the stories of shoppers that lined up more than 12 hours in advance for a shot at buying one of these great door busting deals. 12 hours! Outside! In the cold away from your family!

In other words, stupid!

So you save $100 on a television. You spent 12 hours outside in the cold to do that — that’s $8.33 per hour. And the kicker is, you still probably paid too much compared to online retailers. You likely didn’t save $100 in the first place.

Personally speaking I much prefer to get a good night’s rest, get up at a reasonable hour, and enjoy time with my family on a day off from work.

I use the following strategy to save money while avoiding getting up early .

Use Internet Research and Patience This Holiday Season

Don’t be fooled by the retailers. Prices will continue to get better for most items assuming that supply isn’t limited. So you can use this strategy to save money even though you may have missed out this Black Friday.

It’s a simple strategy. These are the steps I use:

  • identify item to purchase
  • do internet research to find best price using some/all of the following sites
  • determine if local price (including tax) is worth paying to receive item immediately
    • if you can buy the item today for $20 more, is it worth it? On a $50 item probably not. On a $1,200 television? I’d pay it to have it today so I could be done with the purchase and get it off of my to-do list.
    • if price difference isn’t worth it, order from online retailer

Hmm, this would make a great flow chart. I’ll get working on that. You may see this in an upcoming eBook.

That’s how simple it is. A little bit of research, a little bit of patience, and the savings are yours to reap.

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Carnival of Debt Reduction
December 7, 2009 at 7:08 am

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Wojciech Kulicki November 30, 2009 at 6:14 am

Thanks for the great list of resources. We get so wrapped up in chasing after something we want that we rarely stop and think about whether it’s really the best deal.

I had to have my wife talk me out of buying a Flip Cam this weekend, which I knew I could do without for now, but really wanted because it was “on sale.” It’s tough, but we prevailed. :)

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Kevin December 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I think that really is the problem. Most people assume these are the best deals and blindly go into the store. It’s inexcusable to me with all of the technology available that you wouldn’t do a little bit of research.

But that’s just me!

I’ve heard good things about the Flip. Sometimes Woot.com has them on sale for $10-20 off the regular price.

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Peter November 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm

You make a great point about the Black Friday deals not always being the ‘best deals’. For example we bought our 50″ Plasma tv for $580 earlier this year – a great deal after we figured in coupons, bing cash back, sale savings and a $75 discover debit card.

Out of curiosity we looked for a similar TV on black friday. The closes I saw was one for about $650, still $70 more than we paid -not on Black Friday. So buyer beware!

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Kevin December 2, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Funny that you got a really great deal earlier in the year… didn’t even have to wait until Black Friday! Nice!

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Edwin November 30, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Black Friday is so ingrained in our society that people just assume they will be getting amazing deals if they go along with it like they have in the past. Retailers realize this and know that even if they aren’t the lowest price available, they will still get the same or nearly the same amount of sales.

I totally agree with you that it’s silly waiting so long in the early morning to get such minor savings. The advice in this article is a great way to go about doing your shopping.

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Kevin December 2, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Exactly, they just want to get you in the store. I think it is pathetic that stores claim they can “only” get 5 or 10 of a specific doorbuster deal. Completely untrue.

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Megan December 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

Great tips! I avoided Black Friday like the plague. I don’t care if the stores were giving away their inventory – people are so high-strung on Black Friday that it’s just too dangerous to shop.

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Kevin December 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Ha! An excellent point… they’re tired, cold, cranky, and anxious to grab a deal. Best to stay away.

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Phoenix AZ CPA December 6, 2009 at 10:33 am

I agree…sometimes people get overly excited about the deals without rationally thinking through the purchase. If you take your time and research your purchase you can find a better deal. Besides – who wants to get up at 4am the day after Thanksgiving?

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