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November 24, 2008

The Mouse Print in Black Friday Sale Ads

Filed under: Electronics,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 7:12 am

The best bargain shopping day of the year is Friday after Thanksgiving, and retailers are going to try to entice you to shop at their store with doorbusters that they hope will make you drool.

What they hope you don’t notice is the fine print in their Black Friday ads.

Circuit City has this advisory:


limit one

Minimum one?  I guess when you are in bankruptcy you can’t count on suppliers to fulfill orders for advertised items when the retailer already owes them a ton of money. While it is typical that quantities are limited on Black Friday items, a minimum of one is a rarity.

The lesson here for shoppers: you better be there before the doors open if you want one of Circuit City’s doorbusters (or for that matter, anyone’s doorbusters).

Not to be outdone, Best Buy has their own little bit of bad news tucked away in a footnote.


no price matching

So, if you thought you were smart and bought a Black Friday sale item in advance at a higher price thinking you could go back on Friday to get the difference under their price guarantee, forget it.  Nor can you sleep late, and think you can just prance into Best Buy with a competitor’s ad and get them to match the price.

Lastly, Wal-mart has a pseudo-apology in their fine print:


“We apologize for, but will not be bound by, any errors in our advertisements.”

If Wal-mart is not responsible for their errors, who is?  The customer?

For all Black Friday shopping, avoid disappointment, maybe, by checking the websites of various etailers on Thanksgiving Day and early morning on Friday, to see if the deal you want is orderable online.  That way, you may be able to get the item you want and avoid the crowds.

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  1. Be Careful. I thought that I was smart last year by ordering a number of items, including a Playstation 2, from Toys R Us online last year on Black Friday. All items were declared to be in stock and available. The email confirmation said the same. I was excited about this because it saved me from going to this store and allowed me to go to another one. But, two or three days later I received an email from Toys R Us, telling me that the Playstation 2 was “out of stock” and that they had cancelled it from my order. I was furious. This was the second year in a row that they had done this to me but this time it was a bigger deal. I called their customer service the first time and was pretty much told that it was “too bad”. Last year I wasn’t going to put up with it. I demanded that they provide me the Playstation 2, saying that my confirmation was dated Friday morning at around 2:30am and that there was no way they could be out of stock at that time. They ended up sending me the Playstation 2 however one of the free games that it was supposed to include never came. I will never order from them again so it really it “too bad”. They have now lost my money.

    Comment by Rachel Arrowood — November 24, 2008 @ 8:19 am
  2. Old news! This has been printed on the black friday adverts for the past 5 years consistently. Besides, the majority of items offered the those great savings have been in the past the lowest common denominator of those companies product lines. Standing in line to get the automotive equivalent of a YUGO, I’ll pass

    Comment by Docpsycho — November 24, 2008 @ 11:17 am
  3. I used to work in the Ad dept of a local newspaper,and the reason the stores put the disclaimer in about “not responsible has nothing to do with Walmart or any other store trying to deceive people. It is because, sometimes,I or a person laying the type (this was years ago) would make an error and list the wrong price. Errors were about me and the newspaper, not the business. So, be a bit nicer in your comments, OK?

    Edgar replies: Nowadays, retailers send camera-ready copy to the printer. Even if they didn’t, they have a responsibility to proofread their ads before giving the go ahead to print them. In any event, the law of some states requires retailers to honor their printed ads unless they are formally retracted.

    Comment by Barbara Girga — November 25, 2008 @ 2:25 am
  4. The only way you can make sure companies act responsible, is by making them live up to their advertised promises.

    Part of the problem that many customers face these days is that most advertising is mostly false, due to the small print at the bottom. Time to hold stores accountable. They get to set the price, but then they need to sell that product for that price.

    In the Netherlands, the law on this is *very* strict. Even in the case of very obvious printing errors – flat screens for €199.99 in stead of €1999.99 – a judge ordered that all sales had to be honored, until the price had been corrected. He added that all stores needed to do was post a sign at the door, and make sure in store the price change was explained to customers. This is a matter of printing to pieces of paper stating the printing error. He stated that if a store refused to spent 5 minutes on considering whether its pricing was real, than that could not be the problem of the customer.

    Happy to see that there are states who see the same. Without such laws, there is no reason for thruthful advertising anymore.

    Comment by Jasper — November 25, 2008 @ 10:03 am
  5. Sounds like just one more reason to bag the whole thing, downsize your Christmas buying this year, and spend Black Friday morning having a well-deserved rest. Even better: support a local business by treating yourself to breakfast at a homey diner or coffee shop.

    Comment by RoverDaddy — November 25, 2008 @ 10:44 am
  6. @ Jasper: Price Chopper grocery stores in NY are decent enough to follow the
    policy of posting signs correcting errors in ads. I’ve always liked that.

    Most grocery stores are guilty of Wal-Mart’s issue every week. I had a store
    tell me that on day 6 of a sale, they still hadn’t put the sale price in the
    computers. Somehow I doubt I was the first to be hit with the higher price and
    have it corrected by a manager. This store (a Big M) was often guilty of
    yanking merchandise from the shelves whenever it was on sale. They really
    hoped we’d believe they’d coincidentally run out of certain items only on those
    7 days and didn’t get a new delivery until after the sale. Never happened any
    other time and started from the minute their doors opened Sunday morning. The
    best part was the disclaimer that they couldn’t be held responsible if items
    weren’t in stock during sales. At least those stores above are decent enough
    to promise at least 1 item will be there.

    Comment by Ron — November 25, 2008 @ 3:57 pm
  7. Docpsycho,

    Old news is not necessarily good news. The practice is despicable no matter how many times they have done this before. They actually talk about these promos at Team Meetings in the mornings before the doors open, and how they are out, but that you want to sell the customers this model instead at a different price, because it gives the store better margin(profit). Store managers will stand in front of their employees and tell them they are doing the customers a favor, that the substitute product is better! Never mind the fact that is cost $200 more for very little performance gain.

    This all boils down to the old bait-and-switch. They put a fantastic price on an item in the ad, knowing full well they will sell out within minutes, and make sure they have enough similar items, at higher prices, to last them all day long.

    Price matches are a joke as well. Best Buy, Circuit City, and Walmart all three have agreements with computer manufactures for exclusive models. They guarantee that nobody else will have an identical item because the model number will never match. If a laptop is in Best Buy’s ad, you can bet that you will never see the same model somewhere else.

    I am a former (thank god!) Best Buy employee, I was a member of the Geek Squad, and I saw all these practices first hand.

    Comment by Chris S — November 26, 2008 @ 11:24 am
  8. This kind of advertising is disgusting. In essence they are admitting that there are no true savings on
    anything in their stores. As usual, it’s buyer beware.

    Comment by Jimbo — November 26, 2008 @ 1:07 pm
  9. To me Black Friday is like a professional liqiudation sale. No real bargains. It is similar to the Linens and Things liquidation. I ran into the store before the liquidators took over with my 20 per cent off coupons. I bought all their garment bags on the shelf. I asked the management if there were any more because I would buy their whole stock. They said no. 5 days later after the liquidators took over there were 10 more garment bags but only ten per cent off instead of the 20 per cent off I got.

    I started to stay home on Black Friday 25 yrs ago. Too much craziness andI remeber the stores opened at 7 not 4.

    Comment by ellen — November 27, 2008 @ 9:02 am
  10. I’m sure you have all heard that one of the sales reps attempting to stave off the crowd at a Wal Mart by trying to hold the electronic doors that the crowd was pushing against minutes before the 4 AM opening. The door gave way and the “shoppers” stampeded like a herd of cattle and trampled the Wal Mart Employee to death. What insanity. I’m wonder if Wal Mart considers this collateral damage. The hardest thing for me to believe is that not one person tried to help him. Where was all the pepper spray we carry on our key chains to escape from muggers?

    Comment by Christine — December 6, 2008 @ 5:36 am
  11. “We apologize for, but will not be bound by, any errors in our advertisements.”
    If Wal-mart is not responsible for their errors, who is? The customer?

    Comment by MARGUERITE — December 9, 2008 @ 12:29 pm
  12. In response to buying black friday items online- I have purchased items from toysrus.com before, during, and after the black friday sale at the black friday price. If course the “big ticket” items sell out fast online, as they do in the stores. I have NEVER had a problem purchasing items. If they are out of stock there is also a comment saying that this item is temporarily unavailable for purchase. It is a great service that the retailer even offers items at the reduced prices online, and usually extend it beyond the in store ad time. I know this has saved me A LOT of money this Christmas!! Also, Walmart does price match items from other ads, I know because I have done it with quite a few items. The items they offer are usually not found at other retail stores, but the common items other stores carry, Walmart will honor the price match policy.

    Comment by Jen — December 9, 2008 @ 10:30 pm
  13. @Jen – Yes, Walmart does normally price-match items (as long as the ad lists a specific price, they don’t match “X percent off”). But this article was about Best Buy not price-matching items on Black Friday.

    @Chris S – You’re right, the big box retailers DO get their own special models of certain items (computers, TVs, etc.) made just for their chain. When Wal-Mart had a “pre-Black Friday” sale earlier in November, they were offering a Compaq laptop for $300. But the specs were not posted on the website, and sure enough, the model number (which included the letters “WM”) was not searchable on Compaq’s own website. You had to go to the store, wait in line and see the actual item to see the specs. (And much to my surprise, it actually was a pretty good deal. Further to my surprise, my local store had more than 70 laptops, when the ad promised a minumum of 10.) But even with just 10 per store, think of how many Wal-Mart stores there are… it’s no surprise that Wal-Mart can get a manufacturer to make a “custom model” that can’t be price-matched elsewhere.

    @Ron – Not surprised to hear what Big M is doing. I live in Central NY, not too far from the corporate HQ of Big M’s owner, Penn Traffic. They’ve been in and out of bankruptcy for years, battling all sorts of financial problems. Usually, P&C supermarkets (the Penn Traffic stores in my area) are more expensive than the others. The only thing worth going to P&C for is their weekly sale items — of course, as you mentioned, IF they’re actually in stock! No question this company needs to make more money to stay alive, but treating customers like this isn’t the way to do it.

    Comment by pnaw10dotcom — December 17, 2008 @ 2:51 am

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