You see it every year. Hordes of undead shoppers obsessed with spending the least amount of money possible for Christmas line up in the middle of the night for the most unholy of retail days: Black Friday.
Whatever your thoughts are on rampant consumerism during the holidays, you can't fault people for wanting to get some great deals on gifts for their family and friends.
But there's one big problem with Black Friday: the "deals" advertised are either blatant lies, impossible to get, or so limited and based on such insane conditions, you're not actually saving any money at all.
In a nutshell, Black Friday deals are not usually worth it.
One of the most common scams retailers like to pull on Black Friday is label-switching. They'll say items are heavily marked down, but often they replace tags and change the "original" price to something higher, then "mark it down" to the price they were selling it for all along or only a modest discount.
If there's one thing that J.C. Penny's attempt at eliminating sales for good taught us is that we've been conditioned to always look for bargains and deals while we're shopping. No one wants to hear something's one price and that's it.
Another common Black Friday scheme is to mark up the prices of clothing a week or so beforehand to inflate the savings people are getting. Oftentimes, Black Friday sales are no different than a random clearance sale to clear out old stock.
Now you might be thinking to yourself, "Well, what about that huge flat screen TV I always see being sold for $200 on Black Friday?" Well, there's two ways they go about putting a low, low price on expensive electronics.
First, notice the vague language Black Friday marketing uses to describe these "flat screen TVs." Normally, a brand name isn't mentioned at all. What you're usually getting is what's called a "derivative brand."
The trick is to pull you into the store, even if you camp out, with the promise of some wild deals. The thing is, even if you get a poor-quality, made-in-Mordor electronic device for a super low price, it's almost always of a super low quality and in extremely limited quantities. You ever try using a $50 tablet? They're frustratingly impossible to use enjoyably.
Speaking of limited quantities, many of the products, even the name-brand one, are often floor models that have been used and abused for some time, and there's only one or two available.
So you'll have to fight off your fellow shoppers for a chance to maybe save a few hundred dollars on a device that probably wouldn't even qualify for refurbished status.
As for those Black Friday fights, they're the real deal.
It seems like, every year, people either die or get severely injured in Black Friday shopping frenzies. People brawl on store lines and get trampled on, all because they think they're saving money on a Powerbank or Toshiba Satellite laptop. It's ridiculous.
So what's a bargain hunter to do? Well, first, stop shopping for stuff on Black Friday, and if you need to get presents anyway, you're much better shopping for stuff online (even though those deals aren't really deals either). Online retailers almost always have lower prices than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, because their operational costs are much lower.
As for actual deals on things you need to buy, you need to study the market. If you want a bigger and better TV, the week before the Super Bowl almost always has the best deals. Jewelry? Wait until right after Valentine's Day, because they've got inventory that needs to go, go, go. New car? Best get that bad boy in April.
So please, have some self-respect and avoid Black Friday like the plague. It's just a horrible marketing plot to sell you some garbage you never needed in the first place under the guise of "tremendous savings."