Black Friday is upon us, but if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that sales this year started as early as November 1st. That’s been the trend in recent years, as retailers move the start date earlier to maximize sales. What that means for the rest of us is that we need more stamina than ever to stay vigilant and alert and snatch the best deals — that is, if you want to win at Black Friday.
At The Verge, we’ve been scouring the web to bring you the best Black Friday deals in tech. While we don’t typically write about karaoke machines, massage pads, or children’s toys, with the exception of this nifty Nintendo Switch lookalike, we can confidently say now is a good time to swipe those items if you want them for the holiday season.
As retail workers will note, some of the very best deals are insider deals. If your company is holding a charity sale or if you work in retail and can apply an employee discount on top of a Black Friday discount, that’s the icing on top of the cake. For the rest of us, however, here are some general tips for winning at Black Friday.
Be aware of prices and fine print
A common way retailers get you is by saying there are “deals” when there really aren’t. This leaves you, compelled by the spirit of good spending, to decide to buy everything you see for fear the discount will disappear. A good rule of thumb is to keep a running list of products you need, like a smart speaker or a new monitor, and then note their manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) and their actual usual prices. Then, compare them to what the prices are now during Black Friday weekend, or even from last year’s Black Friday sales for similar models.
Beware of retailers that suddenly boast the MSRP of certain products. The keyword of that acronym is “suggested,” meaning most times, things like TVs and headphones are never actually sold at the exact MSRP and often priced for less. Ads will often say something is significantly marked down, but if a 4K smart TV is now $1,000, marked down from a $2,000 suggested retail price, and it’s usually sold elsewhere at $1,020 any other time of year, then that’s not a huge bargain. That’s just business as usual.
To reiterate: just because something is advertised at 70 percent off MSRP, that doesn’t mean it’s cheaper than it has been year round. Do your research to know what’s a good deal and what isn’t. And if you’re super concerned about overspending, bring cash to the brick-and-mortar stores so you’re limited to buying just what you came for.
Know what won’t go on sale
Newer devices like the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Nintendo Switch most likely won’t get massive discounts during Black Friday. That’s to be expected; these are relatively new products for Apple and Nintendo, and both companies are relying on them to sell like hotcakes even at full retail. Case in point, the best deal we’ve seen for the Apple Watch Series 3 was a $5 discount offered by eBay. And as of this reporting, we haven’t seen any deals for the Switch just yet. Small retailers that are offering $199 for the 42mm model of the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular are likely a scam to be avoided. Trust your gut. If it’s too good to be true, don’t risk it.
Another general theme we’ve seen is that most new flagship smartphones won’t see an unusually steep discount — not the Samsung Galaxy S8, the Note 8, and certainly not the iPhone X. Some carriers like T-Mobile are offering mediocre deals that let you buy one and get one free if you add a line, but these are not true Black Friday deals as they’re typically offered when the phones first launch.
Keep in mind that retailers like Newegg, Best Buy, and others are likewise offering fewer discounts on new computer parts, laptops, and gaming accessories that have been out for less than half a year. This means that if you were hoping to build a gaming PC this holiday season with the latest specs like an Intel Core i7-8700k with a Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, but you were holding off in case of deals, just go ahead and press the buy button now. That is unless Newegg’s select PC part deals or other deals listed on the subreddit /r/buildapcsales just happen to be the ones you had your eye on.
Collect all the coupons
After Yahoo disclosed in October that all of its 3 billion user accounts were affected by the 2013 security breach, there became virtually no reason why anyone should continue using their Yahoo account — except for subscribing to every major retailer for emails. It’s where I keep my promotional emails from Dropbox, Starbucks, League of Legends, Hulu, and more. By keeping all these coupons in an email you’re likely to only check once a week at most, you can strike the perfect balance of staying on top of deals, but not letting them take over your life.
In the same vein, you should download the apps of all the major retailers you’re interested in so you can capitalize on app-exclusive deals. Make sure to head into Notifications to switch off push notifications. Sure, this might make you several minutes late to a few crucial deals, but it does wonders for mental health during a very hectic shopping season.
Patience, young padawan. Like a hunter stalking your prey, if you’re online shopping, keep tabs open in incognito mode and in regular mode just in case retailers are switching up prices on you. If you are banking on getting a TV this weekend, have a backup model you’ll be happy with as plan B. That way, if the one you want is sold out, you’re ready to move forward with a second option.
If you’re heading into Black Friday brick-and-mortar madness, pick a store that generally gets less traffic, and make sure you bring a water bottle, snacks, a battery pack, and a giant backpack to lug your treasures back with you.
Deals can be extremely satisfying, but not worth risking any kind of injury to obtain. That includes physical injuries by arguing with other shoppers in the store, or digital ones where you are buying from sites with poor security practices and little fraud protection. Look for HTTPS in retailer URLs, and put your purchases on one credit card to easily monitor spending.
Some deals started last week, others start now or later this weekend, so stay rested and hydrated. Check the return policies on things you buy and apply credit card cash back when possible. Whatever you do, don’t panic and impulse buy 10 Google Home Minis unless you really need them. Good luck.