The parking nightmares, the horrendous lines, and the already snatched-up sale items are just a few of the headaches associated with the annual madness that is Black Friday. Americans love to shop, and they love a good bargain. But consumer experts and seasoned shopping pros say Black Friday is not the best time to indulge a bargain-hunting habit. Here are some of the top reasons why shoppers might want to opt out of the chaos.
With more than two decades of experience in retail and marketing, Howard Schaffer, general manager of Offers.com knows a thing or two about shopping and saving money. His advice to consumers on Black Friday? Avoid bricks-and-mortar stores altogether. "With the convenience of online shopping, shoppers are able to purchase just about anything they can imagine from the comfort of their own home and score the same deals or even better as they would in-store," Schaffer said.
The minute you go to a store you lose the ability to shop at multiple places that you have online, Schaffer said, "and unless you're on your smartphone comparing prices, you lose a lot of opportunity."
Some advertised sale items might be worth it, but by and large they're just luring you into a store. "We found about half the products featured on doorbusters from various retailers last year had a three-star or lower rating on Amazon," Schaffer said. "Don't fall into the marketing trap. Invest your money in tech products at another time of the year."
The best deals on fitness equipment often don't pop up until January or later. For winter clothing, the biggest bargains can be had as spring arrives and winter is in the rearview mirror. Toys, meanwhile, drop in price about nine or 10 days before Christmas. In other words, if you're shopping for any of these items, skip Black Friday.
The goal of Black Friday is to get shoppers into stores and sell them things they don't need. It's a day for impulse buys, and most items won't be discounted as low as as the advertised sale products. Shopping at another time, with a clearer head and not part of an overheated shopping frenzy, is a much better approach.
In case a reminder is needed, Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year -- purchases between Thanksgiving and Christmas account for as much as 30 percent of annual retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation -- as millions of Americans hit the stores, most arriving in their own cars that must be parked nearby. Do you really want to be part of all that?
Black Friday is one of the busiest days of the year for credit card use, according to Chargebacks911 co-founder Monica Eaton-Cardone, and therefore one of the biggest targets for credit card fraud. While there are measures in place to protect personal data when credit cards are used for purchases, retail clerks are often swamped, "so the normal security procedures may be skipped," Eaton-Cardone said. "It's also a day that breaks most people's normal spending patterns, so [unusual spending] might not raise a red flag." Basically, if fraudsters gain access to a card, they can go on a spending spree without being noticed.
The same deals available on Black Friday are often available on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, said Mari Corella, a retail executive with more than a decade of experience with companies such as The Gap, Sears, and Saks Fifth Avenue. "Retailers are starting their hottest deals earlier in the week to beat the competition and are spreading the offers through the weekend." So why force your way through the crowds?
The sale in stores are almost always online as well, where buying saves time, gas, and hassle. "Retailers offer the same, if not better, deals online, particularly on Cyber Monday," she said. "Most offer free shipping and some, such as Sephora, also offer additional perks such as free samples that they don't offer in the stores."
It's not exactly a secret that sale items are snatched up fast. Retailers have purposefully low supplies scattered around limited floor space, and, well … the early bird gets the worm.
It may sound a bit far-fetched to say shopping can be dangerous, but the dangers are real come Black Friday. There's even a Black Friday Death Count website that records hazards associated with the holiday -- such as shoppers hurt during stampedes -- proving Black Friday can inspire some craziness and violence.
Remember when Black Friday wasn't even a thing? When Thanksgiving weekend was about quality time with the family or other loved ones? Rather than searching for bargains you can get another time, or picking up subpar items you don't need, kick back, relax, and enjoy the after-turkey glow with friends and family.