By now you’ve probably already seen advertisements for Black Friday deals from major retailers. But are these deals mostly hype? Or genuine opportunities to save money, amid soaring inflation?
Consumer Reports has been tracking Black Friday deals for years, and CR's deals editor Anna Kocharian has some shopping advice and tips.
Q: We’ve all heard about the global supply chain issues and record-high inflation afflicting the economy. How are those issues impacting holiday shoppers?
A: Those are definitely the two big issues that are hovering over the happy holiday season like storm clouds. What it means for holiday shoppers is that there are some products - think electronics, toys, and large appliances - that will be in short supply. And you really are better off shopping sooner, rather than later, if you have those things on your list.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that shelves are empty (yet). If you really need a new TV or laptop, you’ll be able to find one. But the selection may be a little more limited, you may not get your first choice of models, and perhaps most unfortunately, you likely will pay a little more for it this year.
Q: A lot of consumers are worried about higher prices. Are Black Friday deals truly an opportunity to save? Or is it mostly hype?
At Consumer Reports, we don’t just test all the products. We track prices on all the products we test as well. And what our analysts tell us is that November is the best time to save money on dozens of different products, and prices really are at their lowest around Black Friday.
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That said, many of those deals masquerading as fantastic bargains are not as good as they look, and it’s easy to be fooled. You absolutely need to have a strategy if you want to find the best offers and keep the frustration—and overspending—to a minimum.
Q: Let’s talk about some of those strategies. What does Consumer Reports recommend?
To judge how good the deals really are in crunch time, you need to track prices leading up to Black Friday. But you don’t have to go retailer-by-retailer to compare prices. We've done the homework for you. ConsumerReports.org lists the current prices at various outlets for the products in our ratings, and in all of our Black Friday deals coverage.
When you’re in a store, smartphone apps such as BuyVia, Shopkick, ShopSavvy, and Shopular let you scan barcodes or QR codes to compare prices, get discounts, and score coupons.
And if you’re wondering if you should shop in-store or online for Black Friday, we say Skip the in-store sales and shop online. The days of crazy in-store-only Black Friday morning promotions are likely at, or nearing, their end. The deals won’t be all that different online as they are in-store. And online shoppers may see more free delivery offers and ship-to-store programs with curbside pickup, which is certainly the best way to avoid shipping delays!
Q: Is there any way to compare prices so that you can be sure you’re actually getting the best deal?
A direct comparison shopping can be really tough in the run-up to Black Friday. The best deals often feature models unavailable at other stores or nowhere to be found earlier in the year. Here are two quick tips:
Browser extensions can help. These are small bits of software you can add to web browsers such as Chrome and Firefox to customize your browsing experience. For example, CamelCamelCamel and Honey are tools that will show you price histories and price alerts or coupons as you shop online.
To be a web-savvy shopper, add items to your shopping cart if they have a price you like, so you can find them again quickly and be all set to order. Then go check the websites of other retailers to see whether the price is really special. Putting an item in your cart doesn’t reserve it, though—you need to place your order and get a confirmation that it has been received.
Also, if you’re worried about buying a product around Black Friday and then it being priced lower in December, many retailers have announced price-match guarantees that will last the duration of the holiday season. So if you see a product sold for less later, they’ll refund you the difference. But limitations apply, of course, so be sure to read that fine print.
Q: Are there any Black Friday deals that you’ve seen that are worth taking advantage of right now?
Sure. We think there are TV deals that are pretty good - especially on 65-inch or bigger models, which have seen some of the steepest price reductions.
Both Sam’s Club and Costco are selling the LG 65-Inch C1 Series 4K OLED Smart TV for $1,799. That’s a $200 discount. LG’s OLED TVs are some of the best of the best in our ratings. If you’ve been holding out for an OLED and waiting for a good deal, this is one you might consider.
If you’re looking for something a little smaller and cheaper, Amazon has the Samsung 60-inch QLED Q60A Series 4K Smart TV for $798. It's a few hundred dollars cheaper than it was a few weeks ago. Even better, we tested this model, and it’s a very nice set that delivers first-rate overall picture quality and very good sound.