A CNNMoney story by Parija B. Kavilanz conveys a Black Friday reality check – that of the hordes of pre-dawn shoppers who line up for hours outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving, most will not score those incredible bargains advertised in the circulars.
Now I know it seems like I’m always bashing the retailers, but they are such an easy target. When are they going to stop being their own worst enemy?
Retail experts quoted in Kavilanz’s story and others agree that advertising items as “limited quantity doorbusters” is bad for business, and I think that’s right in many ways. First, many of the deals advertised will not result in consumers getting the deal they think they’re getting. In consumer electronics, for example, where the term “buyer beware” was invented, retailers advertise big flat screen TVs at incredibly low prices. The experts say that’s because they offer “derivatives" - models that have a few less features than a standard model in that manufacturer’s product line. Less features? Then I guess you didn’t get the $1,200 TV for $799, did you? Is it cheating? Not if it’s a different model than the $1,200 unit. The motto is – be a smart consumer. You wouldn’t give a second look to that "no money down, incredible low monthly payment" offer in the car dealer’s ad without checking the fine print at the bottom of the page, would you? Keep your eyes wide open, pay attention to those model numbers and specs, and don’t take anything for granted.
Here’s another thing. The American consumer has been conditioned to go completely insane on the day after Thanksgiving. Kind of like the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead” but without that flesh-eating thing. Again, the retail consultants say this is a no-win situation for the retailers who hope to rebalance their books on that day. It’s also proven to be quite dangerous. A stampede at a Wal-Mart store in New York last year on Black Friday led to an employee's death. Burt Flickinger, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, said, "The stampede happened because so many of the deals were advertised as limited supply." I think that statement is half right, Burt. Maybe another reason for the stampede is that a large number of consumers allowed themselves to get so caught up in that “get ‘em while supplies last” mentality, they completely lost their civility. They interpreted “get ‘em while supplies last” as “get yours before the other guy does.”
I’ll be avoiding the Black Friday zombies again this year by sitting home and shopping online.