You’ve just swallowed that last bite of pumpkin pie. Now that you’re fueled up, do you:
a) Take a nap
b) Watch football
c) Play with the kids
d) Hit the stores for a shopping spree
Black Friday. Depending on your point of view, it’s either the shopping mecca day, or the day retailers offload their so-so products that aren’t selling. It’s either a 24-hour marathon or a good day to spend with the family doing anything BUT shopping.
Let the frenzy begin
Last year, online sales alone totaled $2.72 billion on Black Friday. Lately “Black Friday” has crept into Thanksgiving Day, starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, during one of the prime family-and-friends days of the year. Our informal poll had employees lining up on both sides:
"Not a big fan of Black Friday shopping – hate waking up early; or having to fight for a purchase." - Angelica Casana, Commercial Auto underwriting supervisor, San Diego
"I'm always too full from Thanksgiving to head out and shop! I also feel like they have the same deals throughout the season! I'd rather be with my family than standing in long lines with a bunch of people." – Michele Mayer, Northern California marketing manager, Workers' Compensation, Roseville
"Not a fan of crowds." – Abby Berard, business development manager, Marketing Solutions, San Diego
"I avoid Black Friday like the plague." - Brett Barnsley, director of business development, Tribal Program.
"I feel that Thanksgiving weekend should be about family, not shopping." – Vecki Miljkovic, manager, IT Operations, San Diego
"I am more about the cookbook they give out at Costco after Thanksgiving." – Johana Alvarez, auto territory manager, Roseville
"It’s a family day for us: we get together with several family members, start when the stores open (it’s unfortunate that they’re opening at 3pm on Thanksgiving now--- unfair to employees) and shop for a minimum of 24 hours straight." – Nicole Borden, Underwriting Account Manager, Bellingham
Black Friday / Cyber Monday co-worker stories
What’s been your biggest Black Friday deal?
"A Visio 60-inch smart TV from Walmart the year we got our house. We’d spent a lot of money fixing up the house, so Black Friday was just the right opportunity for us to get a TV at an affordable price. Open 24 hours, the Grossmont Center Walmart allowed you to line up at various spots around the store to wait for your item to become available. They also allowed us to snag a folding chair from the camping section to use while waiting in line. Lucky for me one of my former wrestling students came to wait in the same line, so I had friends to catch up with. It was almost like sitting around a camp fire, and before we knew it, the Walmart employees handed each person in line a ticket purchase the TV and then pick it up at the receiving dock. I went home with the prize (the TV) and didn’t mind the wait!" – Steve Goebel, Business Development Manager - Marketing Solutions
"Cell phones. It’s the best time to upgrade your cell phone because you get the newest gear for pennies and you also get a lot of bonuses. We’ve also picked up great deals on computers, tablets and TVs. You get the best deals on electronics on Black Friday and high quality bed and bath items at a fraction of the cost." – Nicole Borden
What’s been your best Cyber Monday score?
"I’ve already made it! Some stores are doing month long black Friday, so we picked up a convection oven from a local appliance store this weekend. Regular price was $499 on sale for $349 and I had a coupon for $150. That’s a 60 percent savings! SCORE!" – Nicole Borden.
What’s been your worst Black Friday or Cyber Monday bust?
"One year Walmart advertised that they’d have full-sized fire-proof safes with an electronic keypad for only $199…only it turned out that only one store in the area got any and it wasn’t the store I was in. I didn’t find that out until after the long wait. Luckily, Lowes had a similar safe on sale, and there were only three left when I got there. Whew!" - Steve Goebel.
"Websites freezing due to overload can be an issue. It took my husband 45 minutes to purchase a limited sale computer on HP’s site, thanks to the number of buyers waiting and hitting “refresh” continually – and servers crashing." - Nicole Borden.
"One store advertised small appliances for something like $10.98. I grabbed my purchase, stood in line for over an hour in a line that wrapped around the entire store, only to be told at checkout that I had to pay the full price now and mail in my receipt to get a rebate. I learned to read the fine print on all the ads!" - Julie Barrera, Automotive Aftermarket office assistant.
Tips to survive a Black Friday shopping spree?
Plan ahead, said our two Black Friday marathon shoppers Nicole and Steve. Look at all the store ads first and hunt down what you want. Then make a plan of attack and what time you should arrive at different stores. However, this used to be more easily doable in the past because most stores weren’t open Thanksgiving day or 24-hours. But now with some stores open Thanksgiving Day, you might need to start earlier.
Julie added, "Don't take your kids. Wear comfortable clothes. No scarves, hats or big jackets because it's just too much to carry. Know the sizes of everyone you're shopping for (and don't even think about trying anything on!). And be patient."
Go with a group, Nicole suggested. That way someone can wait in line to check out, while others shop then swap. That way when you’re through the line everyone is done shopping. This is also the best way to hit as many stores as possible.
Black Friday / Cyber Monday advice from the experts
It pays to plan your strategy (and your survival). You can view many of the Black Friday store fliers ahead of time here.
Amazon’s Black Friday sales have already started and they’ve promised new deals as often as every five minutes between now and December 22. They’ve also created holiday gift guides that cover electronics, home, handcrafted items and more. Check’em out here.
If you’re a Prime member, here are extra bonuses for you:
- 30-minute early access to “thousands of Lightning Deals”
- An extra 20 percent discount on pre-order and new release video games
- Expanded voice shopping, plus “hundreds of exclusive deals” for voice shoppers via the Amazon device family (Echo, Dot, etc.) – the ultimate in hands-free, from-home buying for uber shoppers
- A full week of Cyber Monday deals the week after Thanksgiving
What to buy – and what to pass on, from Nerdwallet
- Apple. This year, look for deals on MacBooks, iMacs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Apple TVs. Typically it’s previous generation models that have the most dramatic price cuts.
- Gaming system bundles. Look for savings on video games and video game systems from retailers such as Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and GameStop. You’ll find particularly great offers on gaming bundles. And don’t forget Amazon Prime’s 20 percent discount.
- Electronics. What’s Black Friday without good deals on computers, tablets, TVs and Smartphones? More like Gray Friday. This year you’ll find TV and tablet doorbusters and possibly Smartphones as well.
- Home appliances. Always a Black Friday staple, you’ll find deep discounts on washers, dryers and kitchen appliances this year. For smaller appliances, check Macy’s, JCPenney’s and Kohl’s.
- Christmas decorations. Sure, you can find a few on sale, but closer to Christmas Day. The bonanza savings day for these items is post-Christmas.
- Winter clothing. Best deals aren’t on Black Friday, says Nerdwallet.
- Bedding. Best deals are January white sales. Of course, that won’t help you if you’re planning on a full house for the holidays.
Read more at Nerdwallet’s What to Buy, and Skip, on Black Friday 2016.