Tech Matters: Welcome to Black Friday: Tips for success
Ted Shaffrey, Associated Press
Black Friday is upon us, and while product shortages and higher prices present a challenging situation, you can still get much of your holiday shopping done this holiday weekend. Let’s take a look at the trends that are shaping this year’s experience followed by some tools to make your shopping as efficient as possible.
Yes, there are product shortages, namely for laptops, gaming consoles and pretty much anything with a computer chip with the exception of smartphones. This situation is not expected to be resolved until the middle of next year and will hit gamers the hardest. Don’t expect any discounts on newer gaming systems such as the PS5, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch OLED, and most models are sold out at this time. If this was on my list, I’d give a “gift certificate” with the message, “If you can find one, I’ll pay for it.” Laptops are not as scarce, but expect a smaller selection.
Along with shortages come shipping delays, and that issue will affect all categories. Even if you are given an expected or promised arrival date, it may slip. My advice is to buy local. I’m still waiting for a Williams-Sonoma purchase from October, while a Backcountry.com buy came in a day without paying for expedited shipping.
Overall, you can expect fewer deals, lighter discounts and less free shipping. However, retailers are offering better price-matching programs this year. For instance, Target is offering a price adjustment for purchases through Dec. 24 if the price drops on something you purchased from Oct. 10 onward. The popular retailer will also match select competitors’ pricing within 14 days of a customer’s purchase. So, make sure you know a store’s programs and follow up if you’re looking to save as much as possible. You might want to keep a record of your items and what you paid to make tracking easier.
With COVID still a real risk coupled with the typical winter ailments, more shoppers may opt to do their gift buying online, and here we have some good news. First, more stores are offering curbside pickup, which means you can have the comfort of knowing your gift is in hand, while avoiding crowds. Second, nearly gone are the days of doorbusters and the accompanying mayhem.
According to retail analyst NPD, “This year we might actually see an uptick in online promotion right after Thanksgiving as retailers try to excite bored Black Friday consumers. I think the days of crazy in-store-only Black Friday morning promotions are likely at, or nearing, their end.” You should see the same offers online as those offered in-store. And, forget those late night forays to the stores after Thanksgiving dinner. Best Buy, Costco, Target and Walmart announced they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving.
Regardless of this year’s challenges, you can use websites and apps to find the best deals. You will need to know what prices are really good deals, regardless of retailer hype. Before you buy, track prices from competitive retailers. Try the Consumer Reports website for current prices at various outlets for the products in its ratings. You can also use Google Shopping. In Google, type in the item you’re looking for and then click Shopping at the top of the results page. You can then filter by “Available nearby,” “Buy on Google” and “Smaller stores,” as well as by price, category and product attributes.
You can also use any of the Black Friday websites that aggregate Black Friday ads and often package top deals in many categories in their blogs. For the sites you find particularly useful, sign up for deal alerts — you can always unsubscribe when the season is over.
Enroll in loyalty programs with your preferred retailers. You may get free shipping, early access to deals and earn rewards or points against future purchases.
When you’re shopping in-store, you may want to use Amazon’s app to scan barcodes and compare prices. If you find the price is lower on Amazon, make sure you consider shipping costs if you’re not a Prime member and balance whether the savings offsets the time and effort you’ve already spent to head out to the stores.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at email@example.com.