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Dirty Secrets of Black Friday 'Doorbusters'

submitted on November 22, 2009 by a_zhure in "Member's Lounge"
Here are a few things bargain-hungry consumers need to know before they hit stores before dawn the day after Thanksgiving.

Here's a Black Friday reality check: Of the hordes of pre-dawn shoppers who line up for hours outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving, most will not bag the best bargains that appear in merchants' circulars.

"It's a sleazy practice," said Craig Johnson, retailing expert and president of retail consulting group Customer Growth Partners.

Johnson said it's not enough for retailers to mention that they'll have such limited quantities of a product on one of the most-hyped shopping days of the year.

"Retailers aren't winning any customers. They are just pissing off people," he said. "It's poor retailing practice." spoke to industry experts to uncover a few dirty secrets of Black Friday deals.

Limited quantities: Advertising a Black Friday deal as "limited quantities" is bogus, said Johnson.

"C'mon guys. Give me a break," said Dworsky. "How can you be the size of a retailer like Sears and only get a minimum of five per store, yet devote big space in your circular to advertise that deal?

Sears (SHLD, Fortune 500) has not officially revealed its Black Friday sales. However, the company confirmed to that two of its post-Thanksgiving deals include a Samsung 40-inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $599.99, "Only while quantities last, minimum three per store, no rainchecks."

The other is a Kenmore 3.5-cubic-foot high-efficiency washer and 5.8-cubic foot dryer pair for $579.98, "Limit four per store, no rainchecks."

"Sure, you probably have more, but how do you put out a circular to millions of households and only have three?," Dworsky asked.

When asked for a comment, Sears spokesman Tom Aiello said he was "not comfortable" addressing the issue of limited quantities for some Black Friday deals.

Such short supply on deals are not only annoying but can also be dangerous to Black Friday shoppers.

"We saw the stampede at a Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) store in New York last year on Black Friday that led to an employee's death," said Burt Flickinger, managing director of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group. "The stampede happened because so many of the deals were advertised as limited supply."

One retailer, while not explaining why its advertised deals are in such limited supplies, said it is taking measures to better handle the Black Friday rush.

"From going down the line and handing out doorbuster tickets that guarantee a purchase in advance of the store opening, to printing the minimum quantities in the circular, we go to great lengths to ensure that the Black Friday consumer knows exactly how many items will be at the store and whether or not they will be able to purchase one prior to entering the store," Best Buy (BBY, Fortune 500) wrote in an e-mail.

Which Black Friday deals are online? "Many retailers will say that their Black Friday deals are available online," said Dworsky. "But they're not nice enough to tell you which ones."

"How about telling me which exact ones so I can shop online from home and I'm not in my pajamas at 5 a.m. in front of your store," he said.

Online deals that never get shipped: Case in point: Sears. Last year, one of Sears' hottest Black Friday doorbuster deal was on a Kenmore washer-dryer pair for $600.

Even though the retailer advertised that deal to be in "limited quantities," the company decided to honor every customer order made on that deal last Black Friday.

Big mistake. The manufacturer could not ramp up production fast enough. Some customers waited months before their order was shipped. Others were sold a substitute model, that was "comparable or even better" for the same deal price, said Sears' Aiello.

Lesson learned. "We will not be doing that again this year," he said.

Be careful if you're shopping online on Black Friday, said Dworsky.

"Since retailers don't have a live inventory online you run the risk of getting an e-mail weeks later that your order had been delayed or worse, canceled, because the product is out of stock," he said.

About those rainchecks: Finally, if a retailer does offer you a raincheck on a deal, it could still turn out to be an empty promise, Flickinger warned.

"A raincheck doesn't guarantee that you will eventually get that elusive Black Friday deal," he said. "Consumers can go weeks waiting and hoping, and the retailer may never get more of the product shipped to its stores."

  • 43971
    Posted by phunkeey on November 23, 2009
    [reply] 2 0
    Amazon appears to have a live inventory online.
    • HouTex
      Posted by HouTex on November 23, 2009
      [reply] 1 0
      I think and Newegg have live inventory, too.
  • 43999
    11 8 1
    Posted by equipurple on November 23, 2009
    [reply] 2 0
    Thanks for the post

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