Thanksgiving is here, and with it a considerably newer American tradition: Black Friday shopping. With their turkey barely digested and tryptophan flooding their systems, millions of us will head to the nearest mall or big box store, rush through the doors the moment they're unlocked, and start looking feverishly for the best bargains.
It would be more comfortable and a lot smarter to stay home. Here's why:
1. Most Black Friday 'deals' are an illusion.
A few years ago, when my husband and I wanted a new TV, we watched the price of the one we wanted at our local Best Buy. The price a couple of months before Thanksgiving was actually lower than the "deeply discounted" Black Friday price. That's a common practice that means the overwhelming majority of Black Friday "bargains" aren't bargains at all. There are much, much better ways to get a good price on an item you want than standing in a crowd in the cold for hours so you can sprint into a store.
2. You'll be less susceptible to impulse buys.
Retailers have a whole array of tactics to get us to buy things we didn't think we wanted or needed before we walked into the store. You may believe you have too much mental fortitude to give in to this manipulation, but most of us do give in at least some of the time. Because humans are social animals genetically programmed to join in with group activities, being surrounded by people frantically grabbing up items will make you want to do the same. Your best defense is not to be there in the first place.
3. You'll get just as good deals online--or maybe better.
Cyber Monday deals and other online sales are similar to Black Friday deals--most are discounts off artificially inflated prices that--at best--amount to pretty much what you would have paid any other time. You can find a few good deals, though, and there are a number of apps to help you do that. It may be possible to scan a barcode in a store and get price comparisons on your smartphone--although some retailers have taken to gluing their own labels on top of manufacturers' barcodes to thwart this practice. But it's certainly much easier to comparison shop from home.
If you're not attached to getting an absolutely brand-new item, shopping such sites as eBay and Amazon a few days after Black Friday can turn up some real bargains. That's because some Black Friday shoppers who regret their purchases put those items up for sale online just days after buying them.
4. You can do your homework.
Skipping the Black Friday feeding frenzy gives you the chance to do some more careful research on the items you want to buy. Compare the sale price with prices earlier in the year to determine if the Black Friday or Cyber Monday price truly is a good deal. And while you're at it, take the time to compare similar items and read user reviews so you're sure the product you're buying really is the best one for you.
5. You'll get better prices if you wait.
If the items you're hoping to buy aren't going to be holiday gifts, consider waiting until after the holidays are over. At that point, retailers will have unsold merchandise that they need to clear out to make way for the next season's offerings. It's usually a better time to find a real bargain.
6. You'll be safer.
Admittedly, the worst that happens to most Black Friday shoppers is that they get a chill while waiting in the cold. But some unlucky bargain-hunters have been robbed, trampled, stabbed, and even pepper-sprayed. Not everyone survived, as the Black Friday Death Count website reminds us.
With only seven deaths and fewer than 100 injuries attributed to Black Friday, the odds of something really bad happening are very, very small. But wouldn't you feel silly if you got hurt or killed because you were trying to get a good price on an XBox?
7. You can spend time with your family.
Chances are, there's at least one person at your Thanksgiving dinner table who doesn't live nearby or visit very often. And even for those who do live nearby, Thanksgiving is a rare occasion where everyone gets together, puts down their smartphones, and interacts as a family.
So don't waste this precious time. Instead of rushing off into the night to join a crowd of shoppers, stick around with your friends and family members, even if only to watch an old movie or play a card game. That's a better deal than you'll get at any retail store.