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November 26, 2007

Wal-mart Secret Specials: How Low Can They Go?

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:11 am

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Edgar Dworsky For 25 years, Consumer World, the creator of Mouse Print*, has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, and independent investigations. It is your generosity (and not advertising nor corporate contributions) that keeps Mouse Print* and Consumer World available as free consumer resources. So MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your support again this year. Your gift will be most appreciated.

A number of retailers upped the ante this past Black Friday by posting “secret” items on their websites for purchase in-store. They were secret because they were not in the printed flier, and you had to know to visit their site to get the details.

Wal-mart advertised secret items for sale on Friday and Saturday, such as these:

Wal-mart secret sale

One item that will always draw crowds is a cheap laptop, and at $388, many people will likely turn out. When you click on the “branded” laptop, it tells you it could be a Dell, HP, or Toshiba. Wal-mart must want to keep you guessing as if brand doesn’t matter. So you get to the store at 4 a.m. hoping to score some kind of computer, but it wasn’t to be your day. Why did you lose out?  You didn’t read the fine print:


Wal-mart black laptop

Minimum of ONE computer per store???  Come on (in both senses of the phrase).

Well, maybe you would do better on one of the cheaper items, like the newly released DVDs for $12. Surely they will have a bunch of those.

wal-mart black DVDs

*MOUSE PRINT:  Nope, they say they might only have one.

They were more generous on clothing items, and on Saturday’s secret sale, they actually had a minimum of two PS3s, Dyson vacuums, and a Kodak printer.

There was one other noteworthy disclosure in the ad:


Wal-mart black limit 

If you can’t read that, it says “limit 1 per household”. Given that they might only have one item in a category, they could just as well have said “limit 1 household per item.”

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  1. I’m going to guess that they probably had more than one dvd and perhaps more than one laptop and that the fine print was just to cover their butt when angry customers discovered that they got a up before dawn and wasted a trip to the store.

    Comment by Peter — November 26, 2007 @ 8:15 am
  2. Still a minimum of 1 is ridiculous.

    Comment by Bart — November 26, 2007 @ 9:05 am
  3. Best Buy does this all the time. However, they usually have a minimum of 10 per store.

    Comment by Renee — November 26, 2007 @ 9:45 am
  4. I sat this black Friday out. And, Wal-Mart sucks.

    Comment by Chris — November 26, 2007 @ 9:52 am
  5. If they had to put that in an add, then chances are they had good cause to believe that
    many of their stores would only have one item available. It’s a scam to get people to
    go into their stores. If you look into this a little more deeply it would also be next to
    impossible to prove that even that one item was available. All they’d have to say is
    ‘sorry, all sold out’.

    Comment by Jimbo — November 26, 2007 @ 10:16 am
  6. The “Minimum of ONE computer per store” deal is for smaller stores. Dardanelle, Arkansas’s store has a very small electronics department; about 800 square feet. When you consider that Wal-Mart has almost 4000 stores, some being very small, having a minimum of one per store is pretty generous. The “branded” situation is a distribution problem, if you can call it that. With 4000 stores, not all manufacturers can supply all stores. For the ad to work across the board, they have to make it more generic. The “one per household” deal is rarely enforced. If you get a store that is particularly understaffed on black Friday, which is understandable, they most likely won’t be able to enforce limits.

    Ragging on Wal-Mart is getting old. The business model is unlike any other due to their size and the fact that they have something like 80,000 suppliers.

    Comment by Jimmy — November 26, 2007 @ 10:54 am
  7. @Jimmy,

    The “Minimum of ONE computer per store” doesn’t contain a clause that specifies smaller stores. One of the larger stores here in Indianapolis Indiana (big city, not NY big, but a big city nonetheless) received 1 of these laptops, for the over 100 people waiting at the electronics department. I don’t remember this site busting Wal-mart, but if it has happened it is because Wal-mart has put out a misleading, deceptive, or downright despicable ad. Wal-mart promises a great sale, but fails to mention you have about the same odds of winning the lottery as you have getting a great deal on a laptop.

    As far as “a branded laptop” goes, ask any IT person, brand makes a large difference on whether you will purchase a computer. Other sites (Target, Best Buy, Circuit City) Have different ads for different locations, so can Wal-mart.

    Anyone who attempts to deceive their consumers deserves to get “ragged on”, and if they don’t clean up their act they deserve to be closed.

    Comment by Chris S — November 26, 2007 @ 4:55 pm
  8. I failed to notice the button that said “Enter your zip code” in the picture. This is the same method Best Buy, Circuit City, etc uses to tell you what sales are happening for your area. Once again, if they can do it Wal-mart can do it.

    Comment by Chris S — November 26, 2007 @ 4:58 pm
  9. Getting ANY deals on Black Friday is like hitting the lottery. Wait all night in line for the chance to MAYBE get this or any blockbuster deal is simply not worth it to me. And we rarely set foot in Wally’s World anyhow, the two close to us are just plain disgusting. So I will shop this week and probably spend a little more, but suffer nowhere near the stress of those who ventured out on Friday.

    Comment by Tom S — November 26, 2007 @ 5:31 pm
  10. Best Buy is a big violator of this type advertising. This past week they had a Sylvania 20 inch HDTV for $200. Their online site immediately said that none were available online, check with your local store. I put the zip codes of maybe 30 different areas and none of the stores had this TV. They just as well could have advertised it for a penny, subject to availability. There was no availability. And they continuously get away with this deceptive practice.

    Comment by Jerry L — November 26, 2007 @ 5:32 pm
  11. Best Buy shut off in store data from the web for Friday and Saturday sale items. Some of the items not listed for pick-up were available in the store if you bothered to go.

    Comment by Brian — November 26, 2007 @ 11:21 pm
  12. I don’t care who does it, and whether it’s only in small stores or not. This is just deceptive. It is as simple as that.

    I don’t care if it’s Wallmart, Best Buy, or Ol’ Pop’s store on the corner. When you put an item on sale, you should make sure you can accommodate a decent amount of customers. When you’re Ol’ Pop-on-the-corner, perhaps ten or twenty are enough. When you are Wallmart or Best Buy, you better have at least tens of the item available, hundreds, if it’s a smaller item. Big Box stores are in the business of moving volume to make a profit, not single items.

    Unfortunately, I can’t vote with my wallet here, as I already don’t buy stuff at Wallmart. Best Buy I try to avoid as much as I can.

    Comment by Jasper — November 27, 2007 @ 12:50 pm
  13. I don’t know how you can go about and NOT read the fine print.
    When you read something that sounds too good to be true, how do you NOT notice the (*)?

    Sometimes they have more than one b/c there is so much fine print. *, **, ***
    Those stand out light a giant red flag to me. Whenever I see one, I always look at the bottom and read the fine print.

    Comment by Derek — November 27, 2007 @ 4:02 pm
  14. I want to start by saying…. i really don’t like wal-mart. I avoid if at all possible. But on the day of the (secret sale)….. I was 7th in line for the laptop at my local wal-mart….
    they had a skid of these computers. there were a couple of people who got back in line to get a second one. 2 hrs later i called a walmart near my work they still have this laptop. It sounds like not every walmart had this many. but most in the cincinnati area did.

    now, do i like the laptop.. no. i am already having issues with it, and will be taking it back to the store, for repair or replacement.
    will let you know how that goes….

    Comment by Pam — November 28, 2007 @ 1:05 pm
  15. Wal-Mart seemed to have a lot of internal confusion about these, but some of the deal-seekers on places like Fat Wallet seemed to have decent luck. FWIW some reported buying multiples of the laptops to sell on Ebay — so I don’t think Wal-Mart deserves all the blame for running out.

    As for the laptops breaking, it’s the cheap made-in-China stuff you get for a bargain basement price. If the thought of supporting Beijing’s communist rulers (who prop up other dictatorships like North Korea) weren’t bad enough, the quality also tends to be awful. Pay the extra money and get electronics made in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, or any other free country.

    Comment by Charles — November 30, 2007 @ 1:46 pm
  16. @Jasper

    So if I have a sale, I have to make sure that I have enough product for every one? That’s completely stupid. If I own a store and I only want to sell one of something, it’s my right. All the products on Black Friday are low-margin items and if I can’t make much profit off of them, I can have a sale and do whatever I want. The ads are not deceptive; the disclaimers are there on the same page. You think everything should be given to you on a silver platter the second that you decide you want it and anyone who doesn’t put up should be shut down. That’s not how things work. Get over it.

    Comment by Jimmy — December 3, 2007 @ 11:49 pm
  17. if i spent my time looking at the crap companies do to people i would probably be a ranting lunatic. of course that wouldn’t go over so well – so kudos to you for keeping your head and sharing this stuff with such a level head!

    Comment by marleyinoc — December 5, 2007 @ 8:13 pm
  18. @Jimmy
    Although you are technically right, when you start deceiving people with your advertising tactics, you lose credibility. For a small store, if you are always “sold out” of the unbeatable prices that drew people into your store (even if you actually offered one), people will stop showing up because they just don’t trust that you’ll give them what they want.

    In the case of Walmart, they offer enough other low-priced items to offset this, so their tactic is merely to draw “suckers” away from their competition, knowing that most people will eventually find something worthwhile anyway.

    Either way, these tactics have led me to avoid Walmart during any kind of people buying time, which includes pretty much any weekday afternoon. To mean, dealing with the hassles of the lines and parking and angry people is enough to make me look elsewhere for a tiny percentage more (often less than $1 for lots of items I’m seeking.)

    Can we at least gently demand that they put how many items are likely to be available at that price, or at least “quantities very limited”?

    Comment by RS — December 11, 2007 @ 12:26 am
  19. I work in the electronics dept of WalMart. We had 50 of the laptops and they lasted 3 days before the last one was sold. On the other hand tho..our backroom was such a mess that a number of items advertised have yet to make it to the floor! As for the quality(?) of a laptop that is only $388, well, an old saying goes “You get what you pay for.” Whether it was the Toshiba or the HP, ok for general home surfing and emailing..but if you needed it for school or business it was not suitable.

    Comment by Dave Ford — December 5, 2008 @ 2:16 pm
  20. Is everyone just stupid… you not know what a minimum means. It means that every wal-mart has at least one laptop. If it said a maximum of one laptop per store then you should rush because that woulud emply that there was only one or less per store

    Comment by david — December 9, 2008 @ 9:46 pm
  21. Thanks for exposing some of these tricks that companies are trying to use…hoping that no one will notice. I had no idea, and will use your website to keep informed. Great public service!

    Comment by susie burzanko — December 10, 2008 @ 2:56 pm
  22. I went to Walmart on Nov. 7 for the first secret sale item which was an HP 14.6 inch screen laptop. I got there at 8:30am and got my laptop for $298.00. They still had like 12 left. They told me they had like 30 total. I dont know how good a computer it will be, but it was too good a deal to pass up. It will be a Christmas gift for my son. I like the “secret sale”.

    Comment by sarah — November 13, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

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