Black Friday: Myths and Alternatives for the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year

pine shopping

Pine Avenue in Downtown will be one of the local hubs for Small Business Saturday. Photo: Jason Ruiz

The Thanksgiving holiday is less than a week away, which for most people means the great American traditions of turkey, pumpkin pie and tent-cities in retail parking lots are about to commence.

The Black Friday madness, long touted as the kickoff for deals that help consumers complete holiday shopping lists on the cheap and retailers get out of the red, has leaked into the Thursday festivities as retailers expand their profits by offering more shopping time for bargain hunters.

However, according to a recent study from Wallethub, those deals may not be all they’re cracked up to be.

The online personal finance resource site recently ranked the best and worst deals of the upcoming holiday season by comparing and contrasting pre- and post-Black Friday prices for some of the nation’s largest retailers. It ranked some of the best deals for the upcoming holiday season, but also shed light on the fact that some “sales” touted in Black Friday ads are actually mark ups that result in consumers spending more money on items they can normally find at a cheaper price. 

For instance, if you’re in the market for an Osaki OS-3D Pro Cyber Massage Chair from Costco, it might be worth braving the crowds to save over $1,600 for the personal chair-massuese. Been dying to get a new fake Grand-Fir lighted Christmas tree? ACE Hardware has one for $199.99, a savings of over $170.

However, some deals could mislead consumers into thinking they’re getting a deal when, in fact, the price was actually marked up from its pre-holiday price. This was the case for such retailers like Groupon ($67 markup on an elliptical trainer) and Amazon, which had several items with prices ranging from $40 to $120 over the pre-Black Friday price. Still, experts consulted for the study said that people will continue to line up for sales, despite knowing ahead of time that some of the steepest discounts have a limited supply, with the odds of snagging them before they’re gone being very small.

“We can recall TV newscasts of the incredulously long lines of consumers, some of whom have camped out for days prior to the sale, in the hopes of being one of the few who can purchase the doorbuster,” said Gail Tom, professor of marking in the College of Business Administration at Cal State Sacramento. “Sadly, we have also seen consumers crushed to death in the stampede to the door busters. Consumers know the odds, but hope springs eternal.”

The best deals awaiting consumers on Black Friday exist in the video games, toys and books, movies and music categories, all having an average additional discount of over 20 percent. The worst categories are furniture (eight percent) and jewelry (four percent).

A separate survey of over 1,100 people conducted by showed that of those questioned, only 23 percent believed that the best deals existed during Black Friday sales. Still, over 90 percent of the participants plan to spend over $100 during the sales. Regarding the question of whether or not stores should open Thanksgiving night, 47 percent responded they should not.

A growing alternative to the crowds and clamor of Black Friday has been Small Business Saturday, a movement championed by American Express in 2010 that motivates people to shop at small, brick and mortar locations in their communities instead of at big-box giants. Long Beach businesses have capitalized on this idea in past years, putting on their own sales the day after Black Friday to help drive sales for local shops and eateries.

This year is no different, with small businesses across the city preparing for their own holiday sales next weekend. To help facilitate this, metered parking in some areas of the city will be free (two hours in Belmont Shore) and all day in downtown for street metered parking.

“Downtown’s Small Business Saturday is dedicated to keeping it local and keeping it small,” said Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) President & CEO Kraig Kojian in statement today. “Essentially, it’s about entrepreneurial creativity and quality to deliver a unique experience to their customers.”

The DLBA will be supporting a “Makers Mart” on First Street that will include food, entertainment and local artisans selling goods. It will also be distributing a DTLB holiday gift guide that includes more than 75 local businesses’ suggested gift items. Similar festivities are planned in Bixby Knolls where live music will play from 1:00PM to 4:00PM districtwide, and shoppers can capitalize on sales at CloverLongBeach, Lucy’s Boudoir and even earn a shot at a free Apple Watch from Red Eye Media.

Whether you’re planning on braving the lines Thursday night/Friday morning for the big box sales or saving, your shopping stamina for a more local experience Saturday morning, remember that no sale is worth your safety or the safety of those around you.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.