What better way to conclude a day of gratitude than by waking up early the next morning to participate in one of the biggest spending days of the year? Black Friday is upon us once again, kicking off the holiday shopping season with sales and discounts aplenty.
But before you hand over your money on the day after Thanksgiving, make sure you aren’t being duped into spending more than necessary. After all, this is really a holiday for retailers, and they have a few tricks up their sleeves.
1. Bogus Bonuses
One of the common ways that retailers trick you on Black Friday is by increasing the perceived value with bonuses, said Gary Nealon, a marketing consultant and president of Nealon Solutions. “Retailers will create what we call ‘tiered discounts’ that get you to spend more,” he said.
Basically, they rely on the concept of “buy more to save more.” For instance, a store might offer 10% off orders of $50 or more, 15% off orders of $100 or more and 20% off orders of $200 or more. You might not actually need to buy extra merchandise, but it can be psychologically difficult to say no to those perceived extra savings.
2. Coupons With A Catch
Coupons have long been the backbone of bargain shopping, but when it comes to Black Friday coupons, be sure to scrutinize the deal before you head off to the store.
“Often these come with a ton of exclusions,” said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at the shopping comparison website DealNews. “If you’re having to hunt for something to apply it to, it’s probably not worth whatever savings you think you’re getting.” She added many of these coupons require a minimum purchase amount, which might push your spending beyond your original budget in an attempt to reach that threshold.
Black Friday shoppers will undoubtedly find rebates galore when hunting down deals. This type of offer is essentially a partial refund on the price you paid, which requires you to fill out a form and mail it in to redeem it.
On the surface, these types of savings offers are not necessarily nefarious, Ramhold said. However, many retailers and manufacturers bank on the fact that you’ll forget to mail in your rebate or will find it too troublesome. “Then you ended up paying full price for something you didn’t have to,” Ramhold said.
4. Faux Free Shipping
Free shipping is a popular strategy retailers use to get you to buy from them. And on Black Friday, plenty of stores will offer free shipping with no minimum purchase required ― a great way to save money when shopping online.
“Not all stores will, though,“ Ramhold said. “In fact, many will provide excellent discounts, like 50% off or more, but then require you to spend $50 or more to get free shipping.” The allure of free shipping might make you add extra goodies to your cart in order to qualify, even if you don’t necessarily need those items or hadn’t budgeted for the extra purchases.
“If you aren’t planning on spending that much, and the shipping fee is a low rate, just go ahead and pay for the delivery,” Ramhold said.
Black Friday is practically synonymous with “doorbusters” ― deep discounts on products that are limited to the first customers who grab them in time. It’s not uncommon for shoppers to line storefronts late Thanksgiving evening or during the wee hours of Friday morning in hopes of being one of the lucky few.
“Because of limited product items and shelf space for specific models, most of the stores have limited inventory. So if you’re not one of the first ones in the door... you risk not getting the actual product you wanted,” said Thalia Toha, a business strategist. Once you’re in the door, however, you might feel like you wasted your time if you walk out empty-handed. “So you start looking around for something to justify your few hours of early morning wait.”
Nealon said doorbuster items are often sold at a loss because retailers know they boost overall sales.
6. Enticing Lakefront Property
Toha explained that in retail merchandising, there’s a concept known as “lakefront property,” which is used to direct shoppers toward high-value items.
When people first walk into a store, they tend to veer to the right side. “This is exactly why new arrivals that have a higher price tags or value items that are impulse buys tend to be placed strategically on the right-hand side of the store entrance, Toha said.
For example, take the layout at Target. “You’ll notice that as you walk in, there will be a fair amount of kiosks with dollar-items... if you consider the short utility life of the product and the huge profit margins of these items, it’s one of the greatest moneymakers for retailers, especially if consumers buy these lower-ticket items in huge volumes,” Toha said.
7. Strategic Store Layout
Speaking of layout, the entrance isn’t the only part of a store that’s strategically constructed. Every item is placed with precision in order to get you to spend more.
For example, add-ons and related products will be displayed prominently next to sale items. “Often, accessories that you might not have thought about yet are placed next to the doorbuster in hopes that you will buy them, though they may not be on sale,” said Diane McCrohan, associate professor in the College of Business at Johnson & Wales University. “Retailers will set up lines for the registers that wrap around the store. Again, the reason is that they want you to pick up more items than you planned.”
8. Inflated Original Prices
Think that Black Friday “deal” is a real steal? Maybe not. One tactic retailers use to make their sales seem more dramatic is inflating prices several weeks prior to Black Friday. That makes it look like they’re really slashing prices when Black Friday rolls around, McCrohan said. Before you jump on a seemingly steep discount, research what that item usually sells for at other stores throughout the year.
9. Fear Of Missing Out
Regardless of the specific methods retailers use, the essence of Black Friday marketing comes down to preying on people’s fear of missing out, or FOMO. “For most consumers, the concept of Black Friday equates to the best deals of the year, which is not always true. The wording that retailers use for deals makes shoppers feel a sense of urgency, thereby encouraging them buy,” McCrohan said.
The truth is you’re probably not missing out on much if you don’t take advantage of all the Black Friday deals. Not only are similar deals available throughout the year, but major retailers, such as Target and Walmart, repeat many of the same exact Black Friday promotions every year, according to price-tracking data.
Is Black Friday A Bust?
That’s not to say there aren’t some great savings to be had by shopping on Black Friday. But shoppers should temper their expectations and stick to their shopping lists and budgets.
“Thanks to ads dropping long before the holiday, there’s usually plenty of time to do some research,” Ramhold said. She recommended looking into model numbers on the products you’re interested in when you can, and avoid anything that seems to be a Black Friday-exclusive model. “If you keep a close eye on the items you’re interested in, you’ll know when you see those ads if the deal is good or not.”
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