Black Friday: Who Has the Upper Hand?

By ABC News

Nov 27, 2013 7:37am

Commentary by Becky Worley

ABC NEWS Technology Contributor

Black Friday is ruined, RUINED I tell you!

Black Friday has really changed. I’ve been covering it IN DEPTH for the last 8 years and each year this cat and mouse game between retailers and consumers has a different winner. This year retailers have the upper hand again — here’s why.

It started when things were old school: combing through newspaper circulars and making our own lists of the best deals. Consumers were in the dark and had to do a lot of work to find the best deals. Retailers had the upper hand!

Gradually websites like BFAds.net and Blackfriday.fm created databases of all those ads, making deals searchable. Armed with that information, families could spread out and work as a team; selectively buying door-busters at different stores. Door-busters are products being sold at a loss as a means of enticing you into the store. To cover those losses, retailers need consumers to buy other items being sold at a profit. But the ability to easily search and find the best deals meant shoppers could cherry-pick the loss-leader products and exclusively buy those. Consumers had the upper hand!

Then the Internet and e-commerce took off. Web retailers matched in-store prices. Who needs to leave home, stand in line, and miss the good football games when you can get super cheap items online. Web retailers and consumers had the upper hand!

This year I notice something different — retailers are using an age-old trick to take back their Black Friday profits: confuse the consumer! Most of the big chains: Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s are opening Thanksgiving night. Many of them have deals that roll out at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and then again on Friday morning. They are called “staggered deals.” Now consumers not only need to know where to go for the door-busters, they need to know WHEN to go.

And don’t get me started about shopping on Thanksgiving. Retailers have lots of explanations: consumers want to avoid the early morning lines on Black Friday, younger shoppers want to go out on Thanksgiving night, online retailers can sell on Thanksgiving so we should too. Ugh!

Bottom line: The confusing staggered deals, Thanksgiving day hours, and sales that started the day after Halloween mean retailers have taken back the upper hand!

I know they’ll sell plenty this holiday weekend, but as a purist I’m going to get a little crotchety here and say it — retailers are ruining Black Friday, not to mention Thanksgiving.

OK my rant is over. Click HERE for my list of best deals and yes many of them are on Thanksgiving. Do with it what you will; I’m staying home for pie and the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game.

You can follow my tweets about good deals all through the holiday season; I’m @bworley on Twitter.

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