Black Friday earned its reputation because retailers feature "loss leaders," but it often means waiting in line — sometimes for hours — before the store opens, and such specials are typically offered in limited quantities and without rain checks. Consumer Reports Executive Editor Greg Daugherty says it's not always worth breaking down the door.
"A lot of people are into it. They love it. It's a sport. Other people don't like the crowds, don't like standing in line. So it's sort of depends on what kind of person you are. This years there's a lot of opportunities online for getting bargains. These sales tend to continue throughout the season, so Black Friday isn't going to be your only opportunity to, you know, get some bargains. And this year they've been spreading out. I mean it started a lot earlier than the traditional Black Friday. Maybe it'll be a little less crowded this year. It's about more than just one day now. It's about not only that day but the whole weekend and in fact it started so early this year it almost is about the whole month."
Daugherty says sniff out the most appealing specials in advance, by first looking online. Many stores make changes to the websites overnight. Request price guarantees and eye return policies carefully.
"The things they advertise may be very limited quantities, so unless you're one of the first people through the door, you may not get one. Don't count on getting the door-buster special, but have some other things in mind, and know what the good price on them is so, you know, you know whether it really is a bargain or not."
Ed: "Besides rain checks, price guarantees, return policies — those sorts of things seem like they'd be important."
"Yeah, they're worth finding out about. Price guarantees, you know, if the price drops later, they will refund the difference for you. Some stores do price matching, where if you go in there and say 'I know I can get this for such-and-such price down the street,' they'll match it."
The term 'Black Friday' was coined in the 60's, derived from the old accounting practice of using red ink for debts and black ink for profits.