November 16, 2006

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Shop smart
Intelligence + planning = deals
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

It’s coming. It comes every year, no matter what, when we’re at our most vulnerable, when tryptophan has robbed our bodies of all energy and we realize just how behind we are.

I speak, of course, of Black Friday.

The day after Thanksgiving is regarded as the “official” start to the holiday shopping season, though it’s been creeping ever forward in recent years. This truly is the best day of the year to get some boffo deals on technology items from your friendly neighborhood superstores, although sales after Christmas and New Year’s can be pretty good too.

But, like any wonderful anticipated event, Black Friday can bring out anxiety and stress as you try to cram as much deal-gathering into one day as humanly possible. Since the holiday season is all about the joy shopping brings, have a look at these tips for wringing the most out of consumer overload day.

Notice the words “after rebate.” Electronics and computer products, for some reason, are more likely to be advertised at a price you won’t get just checking out of the store. You have to go home, cut out the UPC symbol, make copies of the receipt, fill out a form and mail it off to get a few bucks back in 6 to 12 weeks. Sometimes you have to own a previous version of software, activate a service plan or sign up for Internet access to get the rebate that gets you down to the advertised price. If you do everything meticulously right, you should be fine getting your rebate check, but there’s always that one shady company that doesn’t fulfill properly, so if not getting a rebate is going to break the bank, don’t do it.

Get there early. They’re called “doorbuster” sales for a reason. Take note of the time stores open, and if there’s a sale you really want to attend, be prepared to stand outside for a while first. Generally, the earlier the store opens, the less time you have to spend outside, because fewer people will be willing or able to wake up. Around 9 a.m., though, all the stores start opening, so outside lines get shorter as crowds are dispersed to multiple stores at once. And please, when the doors do open, file in calmly without cutting in front of anyone else. People actually hurt themselves trying to save $10 on a DVD player. You know how many DVD players you can buy with what it costs for a bone splint?

Check back later. If your sale item is gone by the time you get to the store, there’s a chance an additional shipment will come in a day or two. It’s a slim chance and doesn’t help you for five-hour daybreak sales, but for multi-day sales, all hope is not lost.

Read up beforehand. It’s pretty new, but there’s this thing called “the Internet” now. All it takes is for one unscrupulous person to scan a confidential document, say their company’s upcoming sale circular, and all of a sudden everyone in the world knows about it. I’m not saying it’s right, but if you want to plan, now is the time to do it, and places like, oh, I dunno, www.bfads.net, www.blackfridayads.com and www.blackfriday.info might give you some clues.

Happy shopping. Spread the holiday cheer.


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