A few months ago, one of my favorite makeup brands was having a “Birthday Sale,” and for one day only, their amazing concealer was 20 percent off. This product is really popular and never on sale. So as you might have guessed, I snatched it up.
But when I went on Twitter, my bubble was promptly burst. Many customers were ranting at and about the company—a few days before their “huge sale” they actually raised the price of the concealer by a few dollars. I essentially paid full price for the product, even though I thought I was getting such a good deal.
What I’m getting at here is that retailers can be kind of shady when it comes to discounts and markdowns. They want to make a profit, even if that sometimes means deceiving customers by hyping up "sales," and no time is this truer than on Black Friday.
Many retailers put on a big show to make it seem like they have unbeatable Black Friday deals, but are they really that amazing? Or are they using tactics like inflated prices to make you think you’re scoring big?
We did some digging into some of the best “featured deals” from five major Black Friday destinations to find out whether you’ll actually save money shopping there or if they’re just blowing smoke up your you-know-what. Here’s what we found.
1. Best Buy
If you’re in the market for new electronics, you might be thinking of lining up outside Best Buy on Black Friday morning. This retailer is already offerings Black Friday deals on popular Apple products, TVs, and more, but not all of their sale prices are as competitive as they want you to think.
iPad Mini 4: Not as amazing as it looks, but still pretty good
One of Best Buy’s featured deals is on the 128GB iPad mini 4—on Black Friday, they’re selling these tablets for $274.99, a $125 discount from the MSRP of $400. In our research, we found the same 128GB iPad mini model already retails for around $364 on Amazon, and according to a few different price tracking sites, the iPad mini 4’s price hasn’t ever dropped below $300. So while you may not be saving quite as much as Best Buy wants you to believe, it’s still a pretty good deal if you can catch it in stock.
Beats Studio2 headphones: Don't be deceived
The same can’t be said for their sale on Beats Studio2 Wireless Headphones, which will be on sale for $159.99. First of all, it’s no surprise these headphones are on sale, since the new Studio3 model came out a few months ago. Second, we recently saw the same product at Target for $179.99, and they're available on Amazon for $199.99 too, so you’re really only saving $20-$40. Sorry, Best Buy, but we’re not fooled.
55-inch Samsung Smart TV: A good deal, but not exclusive
Finally, we looked into one of their TV deals. They’re advertising a highly rated 55-inch Samsung 4K UHD Smart TV for $899.99, down $300 from its original price of $1,199.99. Overall, this is the best deal from Best Buy that we looked into, but Amazon has already dropped their price for the same model down to $897.77, just $2 below Best Buy's sale price. The advantage of ordering it from Best Buy? Free in-store pickup is great if you're worried about the risk of damage during shipping.
Target’s Black Friday ad features a lot of electronics, but can they really compete with the already low prices of other retailers?
55-inch Westinghouse Smart TV: No discount can make up for a low-quality product
First, we looked into Target's deal on the Westinghouse 55" Smart UHD 4K 60Hz TV, which will be sold for $249.99 on Black Friday. The MSRP for this TV is $649.99, and we found it at Best Buy for $399.99. However, in our experience, Westinghouse TVs are pretty unimpressive and almost never worth buying, even for low prices like this. While the price drop is significant, there's no such thing as a good deal on a bad product.
Canon Rebel camera bundle: A deal worth keeping an eye on
Next up is the Canon Rebel T6 DSLR bundle, which includes a Canon EOS Rebel T6, two lenses, a carrying bag, and a memory card, all for $449.99. We found similar bundles available for around $550 at other retailers, and historically, this bundle has been sold for as low as $440 on Amazon. Bottom line, this entry-level DSLR is a good deal if you want to buy it right now, but the price may drop further before the holiday season is over.
Samsung Galaxy Tablet: Meager discounts are not Black Friday material
Finally, we looked into Target’s Black Friday deal on the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 10.1" Android 16GB tablet, which will be sold for $179.99, down $100 from its MSRP of $279.99. Unfortunately, this isn’t a great deal, as the same tablet is available for $277.99 on Amazon and has already dipped down to $195.50 once this month. We're guessing you'll be able to find this for a better price on Amazon when Black Friday rolls around.
Walmart is an incredibly popular destination for Black Friday shoppers, but do their deals stand up to the test? Here’s what we found to be true about a few of the deals in their Black Friday circular, as well as one of their “Holiday Specials.”
VIZIO Soundbar System: A deal worth your time
One of Walmart’s “Special Buys” on Black Friday is the 2017 VIZIO 32" 5.1 Soundbar System for $139. The system comes with a wireless subwoofer that uses Bluetooth technology, and since it’s a relatively new model, it’s currently $229.99 directly from VIZIO. Walmart’s list price for this model is already a bit lower at $198, and we couldn’t find this particular unit for sale from any other retailers. Overall, you stand to save almost $60 if you snatch up this highly rated sound bar on Black Friday, and we’d call that a pretty good deal.
Instant Pot Lux 5-Qt. 6-in-1 Pressure Cooker: A fantastic price on a hot ticket item
Instant Pot pressure cookers have been getting a lot of buzz lately, so we wanted to look into Walmart’s deal on the Instant Pot Lux 5 Qt 6-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker for $49. This model usually sells for around $79 from both Amazon and Target, but this sale price beats its lowest discount to-date ($66). With the Lux 5-qt. model is smaller than the popular DUp60 7-in-1 model, it's still a fantastic option for any cooking fans on your list, and it looks like Walmart has a seriously competitive deal on this popular pressure cooker.
55-inch Samsung Curved 4K Smart TV: A holiday not-so-special
We couldn’t resist checking out one of Walmart’s “Holiday Specials,” which are already on sale via their website. The retailer is advertising the Samsung 55” Class Curved 4K Smart LED TV for $697.99, which it claims saves you more than $500 off the item’s list price of $1,199. However, a little research revealed that this isn’t a "special" deal. The same TV is available for $699.99 at Best Buy and $697.99 on Amazon. It’s a good price for a this TV, but it’s not an amazing deal by any means, especially as curved TVs tend to restrict viewing access for anyone not seated directly in front of them, and the shape creates light uniformity issues.
4. Home Depot
Next to go under the magnifying glass is Home Depot, which is boasting big sales on all sorts of appliances, from refrigerators to washing machines and vacuums.
Dyson Ball Upright Vacuum: A noteworthy deal you can get right now
What about their smaller appliances then? Home Depot’s Black Friday sale includes the Dyson Ball Complete Upright Vacuum with Extra Tools for $298. This item’s full price is over $600, and the lowest we could find it on Amazon was $383.53, making this one of Home Depot’s better Black Friday deals.
Frigidaire Gallery Fridge: This so-called 'deal' leaves us cold
On Black Friday, Home Depot will be selling the Frigidaire Gallery 21.9 cu. ft. French Door Refrigerator for $1,398—a discount of almost 50 percent, according to their advertisements. However, you can get a similar model at Lowe’s for $1,599, and the exact same model at JCPenney’s Black Friday sale for $1,299. Sorry Home Depot, try again.
Samsung High-Efficiency Washing Machine: A great deal you can get anywhere
Another one of Home Depot’s top sales is on the Samsung 5.0 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Top Load Washer, which they’re selling for $499. While the MSRP is $799, you can get this washing machine at Lowe’s or Best Buy for the same price. It’s a great discount, especially because you can choose the retailer you trust most, but it's by no means a mind-blowing exclusive.
Finally, we dug up some dirt on Macy’s Black Friday deals. If you visit this retailer after Thanksgiving, you’re sure to find some discounts, but they’re not all as good as they seem.
KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer: Just your average sale price
KitchenAid stand mixers are always a coveted sale item, and Macy’s will be selling the KitchenAid KSM150PS Artisan 5 Qt. Stand Mixer for $279.99 on Black Friday (currently selling for $299.99). While this item’s MSRP is $544.99, you can get one right now on Amazon for between $280 and $300, depending on what color you want. Plus, the product’s price history has gone as low as $250 in the past, so we’re calling Macy’s bluff on this “deal." Keep an eye on Amazon and eBay for better offers on this mixer when the big day comes.
Fiesta tableware: Nothing to celebrate here
Macy’s is also advertising the Fiesta 4-Piece Place Setting for $23.99, down from its “original” price of $56. However, these table settings are available on Wayfair for $22.49 and on Amazon for $27.99–$32.99 depending on the color. Based on the product’s price history, it’s been sold for as low as $13, so this really isn’t even close to a bargain at Macy’s.
JBL Charge 3 Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Excellent savings on a brand we love
JBL makes some of the best portable Bluetooth speakers, so our interest was piqued when we saw that Macy’s will be selling the JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker for $89.99 on Black Friday. This speaker typically retails for $149.95, and it’s available on Amazon for between $110 and $140, depending on the color. Overall, this Black Friday deal is a good one if you want to save $30+ on a high-quality Bluetooth speaker.
Our final thoughts on Black Friday sales
As expected, there's definitely a good amount of deception that takes place when it comes to Black Friday sales. Sure, good deals can be found, but you should tread carefully to avoid the total flops out there.
In particular, we found many retailers use the MSRP of a product to calculate Black Friday savings, as opposed to the current market price of the item. This way, they can say the product on sale for 50 percent off, when in reality, it might be closer to 10 percent. Beyond Black Friday, it's good to keep in mind prices on popular gifts may be inflated during the holiday season (a consumer pitfall of supply and demand), but the cost will drop in the months following Christmas. If you're shopping for yourself, you may want to hold off on these big buys.
Overall, we'd simply recommend that you do your homework before heading out on Black Friday. Don't take sale advertisements at their word, because, frankly, they're probably stretching the truth. We're already doing plenty of research on all the discounts and offers from now through the end of the year to help you sort the what from the chaff, and you can check out our master list of the best deals on the best products available right now. Happy (and smart) shopping!
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.