World Black Friday Deal or Dud? Tips For Shopping Smart


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Before lining up at a retail store or firing up your computer for Black Friday bargains, ask yourself one question: Have you ever scored a great deal from the annual post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza?

If you were hard-pressed to think of something, you would not be alone. Black Friday, which has traditionally been the moment to flock to stores for steep discounts, and which has evolved to also include major online sales events for retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, is not all that it is billed to be. We asked J. D. Levite, the deals editor of the product recommendations website The Wirecutter, for some data on just how beneficial the deals are on Black Friday — and the answer was not encouraging.

Year round, Mr. Levite and his team track product prices across the web to unearth discounts on goods of all types, from gadgets to kitchenware. They also look at whether the product is high quality and durable based on their own testing and other reviews, and whether the seller or brand has a reasonable return or warranty policy. By those measures, Mr. Levite said, only about 0.6 percent, or 200 out of the approximately 34,000 deals online, which typically carry the same price tags inside retailers’ physical stores, will be good ones on Black Friday.

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“There are just more deals on that day than any other day of the year,” he said. “But for the most part, the deals aren’t anything better than what you’d see throughout the rest of the year.”

There’s a smarter way to shop than relying on Black Friday. With the plethora of web tools now available, consumers can research online and then use trackers to follow product pricing for drops throughout the year. While it’s a time-consuming effort, the method is more precise for understanding pricing trends, both online and in stores.

One useful tracking tool is Camel Camel Camel, which is geared toward users of the online retail behemoth Amazon. Using the Camel Camel Camel website, people can view a product’s price history on Amazon.com and then create alerts to receive an email as soon as the item’s price falls to a certain threshold.

Over time, interesting trends emerge. One is that some product prices are raised in October, a few weeks before Black Friday. The prices are reduced again on Black Friday.

Mr. Levite cited the example of the Basis Peak Ultimate Fitness and Sleep Tracker, which was listed on Amazon at around $150 in September. At the beginning of November, the gadget shot up to $170. This week, the price fell back down to $150.

“We do not raise prices ahead of Black Friday deals to make deals look more attractive,” Sarah Gelman, an Amazon spokeswoman, said.

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