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Newsletter: Those Black Friday deals? They’re not as good as you think

Black Friday
The dirty little secret of Black Friday — and its cousin, Cyber Monday — is that the best deals are still to come.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today at Black Friday.

We’re still days away from the official buy-a-thon that marks the beginning of the holiday-shopping season, but, as has been evident for years, Black Friday is no longer just a day. Sales have been underway for weeks. Retailers are pulling out the stops to get you to buy early and buy often.

That said, here are some tips to help you navigate Black Friday.

First and foremost, remember that the discounts you’re currently seeing aren’t a one-off. The dirty little secret of Black Friday — and its cousin, Cyber Monday — is that the best deals are still to come.

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While retailers use the promise of low-low-low prices and cut-rate doorbusters to gin up excitement, the reality is that this is all about moving inventory. And the old rules still apply: The closer we get to the actual holidays, the more retailers will slash prices.

Moreover, the discounts prominently featured this week are generally available throughout the year, thanks to online campaigns that feature discounts of 25% or more at various times throughout the year.

So don’t go thinking you have to stand in line at 4 in the morning this Friday just to get a shot at some cheaper-than-usual TV or laptop. You’ll get other chances to enjoy such bargains.

But if you’re determined to use Black Friday as a contact sport, keep this in mind:

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  • It pays to do your homework. Check out sites such as Black Friday Ads and BlackFriday.com to see what various retailers are pitching.
  • Subscribe to the email lists of your favorite retailers, and follow them on social media, to get word of hot deals and flash sales.
  • Use apps such as Shopsavvy and Flipp to receive alerts about stuff you want.
  • Look for deals on shipping. Many retailers are featuring free or express shipping to get an edge over the competition. If you’re paying full-freight, you’re paying too much.

Bottom line: Don’t believe the Black Friday hype. There’s no hurry to get your shopping done, and most retailers will be just as hungry for your business next week as they are this week.

Now then, here are a couple of recent stories from our pages worth highlighting:

PayPal deal: PayPal Holdings is buying L.A.-based Honey Science Corp. for $4 billion, marking the largest acquisition of a tech company in the city’s history. Honey Science makes a popular browser extension that enables users to compare prices while shopping online.

SoCalGas: A marketing campaign for natural gas led by the American Public Gas Assn., a trade group, is funded in part by unknowing customers of Southern California Gas Co. They may be surprised to know they’re helping pay for efforts that critics say undermine California’s campaign to tackle climate change.

RECALLS

Consumers were advised to throw away romaine lettuce and salad mixes amid a nationwide outbreak of E. coli infections linked to California’s Salinas Valley. Forty people in 16 states have been sickened, 28 of them seriously enough to require hospitalization.

Mondelēz Global, parent of Nabisco, recalled some boxes of Cheese Nips because they may contain little pieces of plastic. Check your pantry for 11-ounce boxes of the popular snack with a “best by” date of May 18, 19 or 20, 2020.

General Motors is recalling over 640,000 pickup trucks because a high-tech seat belt can set the carpeting on fire. The recall covers certain 2019 and 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks, as well as some 2020 Silverado 2500 and 3500 models, and Sierra 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups.

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SPARE CHANGE

In honor of Black Friday, some songs about shopping. This one from the Pet Shop Boys still rocks. And you can’t beat Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. The Boss had a little something to offer on the subject. But when it comes to runaway materialism, nobody beats Madonna.

Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is david.lazarus@latimes.com, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.


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