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Is Camping Out for Black Friday Worth It?

As Thanksgiving meals end and turkey-filled relatives & friends say goodbye, many Americans will be headed to crowded, cold concrete sidewalks outside their favorite stores. A long, frigid night is ahead for these smart shoppers, huddled under blankets waiting for the Black Friday sales to commence.

But is it worth it?

When I was in college I had a part-time gig at the local Best Buy. And my first official day was the Friday after Thanksgiving. It was intense and a bit nerve-racking walking into work for the first time at midnight and being greeted by a line of eager customers lined around the building – when just hours before I had been with my family celebrating a day of thanks.

As the GM handed me my shirt and badge all I could think about was how crazy these people were for sacrificing get-togetherness time for a $300 computer and a $40 dvd player. It didn’t make sense to me. And it still doesn’t.

The question I pose: Why would anyone in their right mind go through the agony of crowded, frantic shopping conditions after waiting in the cold for hours?

The answer of most: The deals are too good to pass up.

While yes, a new flat-screen TV for half-off is an attractive offer, it isn’t a deal. Not at all. Here’s why:

Need vs. Want

If you had never picked up that Bed, Bath & Beyond sales flyer, would you really have wanted that $100 automatic wine decanter? Exactly. Almost everything on sale this holiday season isn’t stuff you require out of necessity. But rather, it’s all things you want because you noticed the substantial discount.

The Add-Ons

One thing I learned while working at Best Buy was the concept of Add-Ons. Best Buy could lose a ton of money on a computer, TV, or other main electronics device. Because they knew the profit could be recovered in cables, accessories, batteries, and warranties.

Getting that new laptop computer for $300? Don’t forget the anti-virus software for $30, the external mouse for $20, the airport-friendly case for $50, the security cable for $25, Microsoft Office for $400, the extended warranty for $100… you get the point. You will quickly find that had you shopped around outside of Black Friday, a better overall deal may have been widely available.

The Web

Websites such as and Spoofee have saved me thousands of dollars over the years. And don’t forget sites like Groupon which can help save a bundle of money.

The deals you can find on the web are amazing. And oftentimes depending on the store, sales can be found year-round.

Impulse Buys

You head into the store for a new TV, but while walking through the aisles you notice a Blue-Ray DVD player on sale. Without a second thought you toss it in the cart. And of course you need something to watch, so you impulsively buy a few movies. Oh, and while you’re in the checkout aisle, you spot the infamous shake-weight you wanted last year. You’ve been meaning to shed a few pounds (and bonus, you can use it while watching Gladiator in Blue-Ray). Bam, it’s in the cart. Now you’re a few hundred bucks over budget. Impulse buys are as slippery a slope as the add-on buy.

It’s Crap: Remember TINSTAAFL

Have you ever heard “There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch?” Put in other words, someone is making money – usually through clever cost-cutting supply side strategies. And one of the easiest methods to cut costs is downgrading the quality of components. Dell somehow continually gets away with this. Wal-Mart notoriously pressures its manufacturers into cutting costs through this methodology as well.

You can usually spot this bait & switch through the product number. Two weeks prior, they may have been selling FRD-301ac. But as Black Friday rolls around, magically the product number changes to FRD-301ad.

Most Importantly: The True Costs

Unfortunately, most Americans think costs are black and white. That everything revolves around money. And by spending a night in a line outside a store to save a few hundred dollars is justifiable and worth the suffering. Well, I’m here to say it isn’t. That by looking at the bigger picture, you actually spend more than you save. What could you have rather been doing? For most, it’s socializing with family and friends. For others, it’s sleeping in on one of the few vacation days of the years. And for everyone, it’s avoiding lunatic shopping conditions.

If you don’t believe what I have written, happen to like crowds and can’t stand the family, please still don’t give into the temptation of Black Friday… go read a book. It will provide much more usefulness in your lifetime.

To Conclude

I’m a big proponent for having a rational behind my actions. And obviously, saving money is a great reason for doing something out of the ordinary. But with a birds-eye view of the inner workings and downfalls of post-Thanksgiving shopping, I cannot foresee putting myself through the agony of Black Friday. Neither should you.

What’s your take on this?

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