Being raised to rummage through racks while developing a keen eye for luxury styles sold at bargain prices, it wasn’t long before I was introduced to the infamous after-Thanksgiving “holiday” – Black Friday. My family and I weren’t the pitch-a-tent outside Best Buy type, but you could say our attendance at the mall was pretty much expected.
As a kid, Black Friday was like Christmas and Hannukah had come early if my mom didn’t make me wait until then to re-open the items I picked out. When I was younger, I’d find something I liked, show my mom or dad what I found, and then proceed with the typical back and forth: me arguing I needed it, them contemplating, me pretending to have a stomachache, and them giving in. Over time, however, my wallet started being thrown into the pool of contenders at every register, inside any shop I wanted to look in. And when this would happen, I began to question whether the 15 per cent off the $45 long-sleeves were actually worth it – spoiler alert, they usually weren’t.
That said, at the ripe age of 23 with shopping experience 30 years my senior, I’ve come to realise how unduly glamourised Black Friday sales are. Brands will reach out weeks in advance to try and entice shoppers with deals that include confusing contingencies, like if you buy two pairs of leggings, you get half off the next pair, but that pair has to be a specific style.
The promotions being spewed by retailers who advertise “one-of-a-kind” deals that we “don’t want to miss” are often exaggerated and misleading. On top of that, it’s hard to decipher legitimate advertising from scammers looking to profit off desperate holiday shoppers and Black Friday devotees.
According to Michael Dinich, the founder of Wealth of Geeks, swindlers thrive and feed off this panicked time ahead of major holidays. “Fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever as technology evolves, and during this busy shopping period, it provides the perfect opportunities to exploit the increased volume of transactions and potentially catch shoppers off guard,” he noted.
So, how do we separate the junk, and the subsequent junk mail, from the gold worth swiping our cards for on Black Friday?
We spoke to experts about how to decipher the worth of a deal on Black Friday, and whether we are better off waiting for Cyber Monday or sales in the new year.
Natalie Warb, a financial expert at CouponBirds, explained how companies often keep their Black Friday deals going in the days, and even months, afterward. “Some companies use Black Friday to make deals appear better than they are - you might find that some products stay at their discounted price in the months to follow, meaning that the discount you saw wasn’t so exclusive after all,” she revealed.
In her expert opinion, it never hurts to do some research. You never know what you could find out – an item you want may be being sold for a lower price than normally at other retailers. Don’t narrow your scope to just one or two brands carrying your item and ignore the pressure of the time crunch imposed on you. Looking into your options isn’t as time-consuming as you may think with the number of price matching websites and apps out there like Price.com.
“For those of us who are shopping for tech, it’s likely that on Cyber Monday you will see some deals that are even better than the discounts offered on Black Friday. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the most popular products may already have sold out by then,” Warb proclaimed. “If you’re happy to wait longer to secure a better deal, retailers also often offer very high discounts in the post-Christmas sales - but if you’re shopping for something you really want anyway, the Black Friday discounts might make it worth your while to buy sooner.”
Warb and Bola Sokunbi, creator of Clever Girl Finance, labelled tech (mobile phones, TVs, other electronics) as one of, if not the most popular, line of products that people tend to spend their money on during Black Friday, with cheap TVs being bought unnecessarily so. Though a lower rate for a flat screen seems like deal too good to pass up, taking note of the brand, model, and edition is important because a television is meant to be an item you hopefully only buy once, but a cheaper one could mean it’s prone to problems.
“Some deals that are usually not worth it include furniture, mattresses and super cheap TVs from random brands. While furniture and mattresses are likely to be on sale for Black Friday, it isn’t the only time during the year that there will be a big sale,” Sokunbi said. “In addition, you usually want to keep TVs long-term, so buying one that isn’t the best brand could mean getting a cheaper product that breaks quickly.”
And, how do we avoid the admittedly convincing fraud ads?
Warb, along with Dinich, are encouraging consumers to read their emails carefully, proceeding with caution before they input their card information this Black Friday.
“Around Black Friday, you might see an uptake in scam marketing emails, which attempt to trick you by imitating retailers,” Warb told The Independent. “While these emails might encourage you to ‘hurry’ and ‘buy now’, be sure to take a close look at the email address and check that it is coming from a reputable source.”
“I would urge shoppers to avoid clicking links in emails, and instead go straight to the retailer’s official web page or social media channels to check for deals,” she continued.
Let’s say you gloss over an advertisement, thinking you’ve seen or heard of the seller before, and go ahead and make a purchase. If the “company” emails you again and claims you put in your bank details or billing information incorrectly, Wealth of Geeks said that’s a telltale sign the site is a scam.
“If a retailer asks you to change your bank details with urgency and claims there is a risk of losing out on an order you have made, then you should be suspicious,” they noted. “Essentially, they are hoping to draw you into entering your bank details into a fake website that they have made to look real.”
In this case, you should reach out and contact the retailer to confirm your order and information before making any kind of correction.
Other hints that an email ad or posted deal is fake are fake tracking numbers sent through an attachment or a link from a completely different email, instant messages encouraging you to click a link to secure a sale, fake charity reach outs, social media imposters contacting you, random gift card links, and fake product reviews that require payments.
Generally speaking, Sokunbi said: “It’s important not to give out information through emails, especially if it says it’s a confirmation email and you aren’t sure it’s real.”
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Black Friday shouldn’t be an excuse to overconsume or overspend. Though the purpose of the day is marketed to make you think overspending isn’t possible, your budget can easily be maxed out if you’re not carefully considering value and necessity. The day after Thanksgiving may have been your scheduled time to knock out your holiday shopping before it gets too late, but ask yourself whether these purchases need to be made on the one day that guarantees a mass of people will be making the same. It could pay off to look the week before or bide your time until the craze of Black Friday settles.
“If they get a chance, shoppers hoping to pick up a great deal should definitely check out large retailers such as Amazon in the run up to Black Friday,” Warb confessed. “As they know most people will be looking to buy on Black Friday itself, many retailers now offer ‘early bird’ sales. These sales in the days and weeks before may even offer better discounts than those available on the day.”