Tag Archives: Black Friday

The joys of the season

money overhead big billsI am a big online shopper, trying my best to avoid the stores during the busy holiday shopping season. However, my husband insisted we spend some time window shopping at the mall while enjoying the sounds and sights of the season. I reluctantly went. We pulled into a parking space farthest away from the mall. I couldn’t believe the shortage of spaces. The chaos outside made me want to drive away, afraid of what we would experience inside. What we found surprised me.

The mall was filled with people. Some stores were wall to wall shoppers with little room to move. The noise of all the holiday chatter echoed off the walls. When I looked around, I saw shoppers carrying multiple bags. Despite the crowds, it wasn’t chaotic. It was orderly.

One place where I expected chaos was the Santa line. The line was wrapped around the display probably 50-100 deep. Surely, the patience was wearing thin for somebody. I looked around and didn’t see one child running around, screaming, or crying.

I was shocked. I’ve visited gaming and play centers on a weekend, and it’s filled with children running around, screaming, or crying. However, the magic and power of Santa had all these children on their best behavior.

holiday shoppingShoppers were not only on their best behavior, store clerks were too. They were helpful and pleasant. Granted they’re told to be on their best behavior as sales during the holiday season are crucial to the future of some of these businesses. While corporate may send that message, reality doesn’t always allow a smile and courteous attitude. The retail business is tough and involves long, tiring hours. That can easily get the best of any human so I expected “someone” would be in a bad mood. I didn’t find anyone during my visit.

It’s amazing how much one person’s attitude impacts the next. With many people in good moods, the spirit of the season was felt by many. The good mood became contagious. One woman even commented to the manager about the good cheer.

We were eating at a restaurant in the mall parking lot, and the woman in the booth next to us asked for the manager. That’s never a good sign, and you could see the server was concerned by the expression on his face. He even went over to the woman after she asked for the manager, and had a brief interaction. Clearly, the server was concerned about the customer’s request.

The manager came over, and the customer asked her to sit down. Another bad sign, or was it? I couldn’t hear everything that was said, but the next thing that I heard was the manager thanking the woman over and over for sharing such positive comments. The manager told the customer typically she hears the bad feedback rather than any positive feedback about servers. She thanked the customer for sharing.

The manager and customer talked for almost ten minutes as if they were good friends. The manager made it known this was a rare experience.

Minutes later the waiter stopped by the booth to thank the customer. He really was a great server, and we left him a 30% tip to thank him for his good service.

I must say the shopping experience was unexpected for the holiday season. It was nice to see good customer service still exists and good behavior from customers still exists. We hear all about the bad store policies, why not focus on the positive? We all need a bright spot in this still sluggish and unpredictable economy. I hope you’ve also enjoyed the joy of the holiday season. Share your stories of positive customer service by clicking comment below. 

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“Thank you for your business”

What a week of contrasts — thankfulness and greed. Just hours after we finished our Thanksgiving meal with family and gave thanks to all we have in our lives, people lined up to rush into stores to grab a good deal. Some people fought to get what they wanted. Thanksgiving has become Black Friday or Gray Thursday. Whatever you call it, corporate greed and survival is the focus on a day we’re supposed to be reflective and thankful for what we have.

Black Friday camper.

You can’t just blame the stores. Shoppers are so desperate to gobble up the doors they line up a week early.

This holiday, the stakes are higher than ever. Stores are desperate to pad their bottom line, as Internet businesses are making it tough for retail stores to keep their doors open. I think some retailers will disappear before the next shopping season if their sales are not good. Stores have all sorts of gimmicks and promotions to get you to shop like Thanksgiving day doorbusters and price matching policies even for Internet stores and prices. That’s an unprecedented move as retailers are desperate to keep their doors open.

Gordon Square. Cleveland, OH

It’s not just corporations looking to keep their doors open, but small businesses as well. The mom and pop stores of the world. The ones opened by your neighbors who live in your community and support it when their business thrives. Saturday, the corporate credit card company American Express, is promoting “Small Business Saturday.”

It’s a way to get you to support your local business. The ones that are the framework of your community. For every $25 you spend at a participating AmEx small business, you’ll get a $25 statement credit. It’s a free $25. A nice incentive to support your local stores.

I stopped in a few the other day, and I must say it opened my eyes to the unique gifts and good people behind these storefronts that I buzz by every day. You really can find gifts you won’t find anywhere else. You may pay a bit more for your gift, but you get so much more.

Service anyone? When was the  last time you got service at a store? It’s a rarity at a big business. Free gift wrap and packaging? It’s just part of the standard package at a small business. Check one out this weekend. I think you’ll be surprised.

I got a surprise from a local business this week — unrelated to holiday shopping. I needed three tire valve caps to keep the air pressure in our tires. I went to Lakefront Automotive Parts in Cleveland to pick up the caps. I like walking in there because the staff is friendly and always willing to help you find what you need. You’re in and out in less than five minutes and get service with a smile.

The salesman told me they didn’t sell just three caps. They came in a packet of 100. I was willing to accept it and go someplace else. Then, he grabbed the package off the shelf. He opened it up and handed me three. He said, “We’ll get you next time. Have a great day.”

I offered to pay and he refused. The cost  would have been less than a $1, but it didn’t matter. It was the gesture that will remain in my mind. He went out of his way to make sure I was a satisfied customer. It’s something you hardly get anymore. Such a small thing, but it left a big impression on me. It’s the small things in life that leave the most lasting impressions.

Don’t forget to Shop a store this holiday that truly is thankful for your business.

Sorting through all the Black Friday ads

GottaDeal Black Friday savings chart

All the ads have leaked over the last few weeks, and this year some retailers are posting their own ads online so you’ll go their site rather than the sites that leak them. Keeping all the discounts straight can get confusing. If you’re on the hunt for something specific, check out the savings chart on GottaDeal.The deal saving site breaks down the discounts into categories. For example, if you’re interested in a new TV, you select TV from the dropdown box. Then, you’ll see a listing of all the brands and deals. Continue reading

Survival guide to Black Friday week

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

The much anticipated Thanksgiving week has arrived. Get the aspirin ready if you’re travelling or planning to shop. Put the scale away and get the beer ready if you’re planning to be lazy and watch some football and eat. Don’t expect the hype over the shopping season to end next week. There’s a lot at stake this year for retailers, so  there will be sales throughout the season.

While we typically think of Black Friday as the shopping day after Thanksgiving, the unofficial holiday is getting redefined. Call the new shopping deals on Thursday whatever you want — Gray Thursday, Black Friday Creep, or Black Thursday.  No matter what you call all these deals, here’s a shopping survival guide:

1. Black Friday is really a week or month-long tradition
Much of the focus is on the Thanksgiving Day sales, but really they start Monday. Many retailers will tempt you with deals leading up to Black Friday aka Thanksgiving, so be on the lookout.

2. Don’t just line up – log in
Just as many amazing deals will be offered online as in the store. If you’re like me and hate the crowds and lines, just log into your computer. Start on Monday and keep looking. The deals online will last throughout the season, but they’ll be big especially this next week culminating with Cyber Monday a week from today.  Don’t forget to check Thanksgiving morning. That’s when many dealhounds grab their discounts.

If you shop online, log into Ebates first so you can earn cash while shopping. Click here to read more about earning money while you shop

3. Expect surprises at Walmart
Protests are planned at more than 1,000 Walmart stores. While it doesn’t appear any are planned in Cleveland at this time, that could change. There is one planned in Cincinnati.

Even if there’s not an organized protest, there may be chaos in the aisles. That’s another tactic being used by some protesters.

I don’t expect massive disruptions across the board, but the protests seem to be gaining momentum so I think there will be some disruption to service at some stores. I don’t think you need to rearrange your shopping plans because of this, but just expect a surprise or two at Walmart. Who knows what’s going to happen.

4. Skip Gray Thursday shopping and shop early Friday morning
I think the turnout for Gray Thursday shopping will be bigger than ever. It’s much easier for customers to shop at 8 PM rather than 4 AM. With the Thanksgiving night shopping, nobody is fighting the alarm clock. People typically relax and eat on Thanksgiving, so by 8 PM people will want to do something and get away from the relatives. I expect big lines on Turkey night and people will shop til they drop.

By 2 or 3 AM, I think the shopping will taper off as people get tired and go home to sleep having spent thousands of dollars already. I think the best time to shop will be between 3 AM and 10 AM. If you don’t want to get up in the middle of the night, hit the stores at 7 AM. That’s a reasonable hour. You’ll have at least three hours to yourself to put a dent in your shopping.

Of course, if you wait you miss out on the doorbusters. Some stores are not even opening until 5 or 6 AM on Black Friday so you may still cash in on deals depending on what you are looking for this holiday.

5. Avoid Best Buy and Walmart if you don’t like lines
A sleeper in all of this holiday mayhem may be Target. The store opens an hour after Toys “R” Us and Walmart which may keep the lines short. Typically, I don’t see people lining up at this store. I think that will be the same this year because shopping begins an hour earlier at other retailers. People will be waiting in line or grabbing their deals at Walmart and Toys “R” Us when Target opens meaning it could provide a stress free shopping experience for you.

Black Friday Creep – what do you think of stores opening at 8 PM Thanksgiving?

Most of the Black Friday ads are out. Some were leaked. This year, some retailers just released them on their own site avoiding the leak mania. Walmart and Target have the full ad on their site. The theme: the stories are opening earlier than ever turning Black Friday into Black Friday Creep or Gray Thursday.

The unofficial start to the holiday season is no longer just a day. Many sales start Monday online with retailers trying to maximize the number of days they can get your attention.

There were online protests last year as stores opened late on Thanksgiving, but obviously those online petitions did little to sway the retailers. This year they are opening four hours before Friday. Many of the big retailers are opening at 8 PM on Thanksgiving. Target at 9 PM and Best Buy at midnight. These early opening times are sparking more heated debate this year, and even a proposed strike by Walmart employees.

The stores say they are opening early to meet demand. 8 PM is a convenient time. It’s a lot easier to shop at that time than getting up at 3 AM to start your shopping. I expect people will shop til they drop which will about 3 AM. The time they were getting up when Black Friday really was Black Friday.

Experts think these trends will continue unless there really is a strike by Walmart. It would take something big to stop the holiday creep.

What do you think of the early start times for holiday shopping? Click comment below.

Saving on holiday shopping depends on the “day” you shop

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and retailers will have all sorts of gimmicks to get you to save. Here’s a look at some of the important dates this holiday that will help procrastinators and early birds save money.

November 23 – Black Friday
If you have no interest in the crowds, there are many other days to save.

November 24 – Small business Saturday
Support your local business and save.

November 26 – Cyber Monday
During the entire holiday season last year, online sales were up 17%. This year, the numbers are expected to jump 20% over last year. On the Monday after Black Friday, shoppers spend their work day shopping for deals online.

December 10 – Green Monday
Ebay came up with this term in 2007 to describe their best sales day in December. It’s the second Monday of the month, and now billions are spent on this online shopping holiday.

December 14 – Post office deadline
Deadline for parcel post mail deliveries to arrive on time for the holidays.

December 15 – Busy shopping day
ShopperTrak calls this the third busiest shopping day of the season aside from Black Friday and Super Saturday which is the last Saturday before the Christmas holiday.

December 17 – Free Shipping Day
Thousands of retailers join together and offer free shipping to shoppers. Some have restrictions on your order total to qualify for the promotion, but may don’t.

December 20 – First class  mail deadline

December 22 – Super Saturday
Lots of procrastinators will fill the malls and take advantage of last minute deals.

December 23 – e-Gift card Day
Once again procrastinators are in luck. This day allows you to get a last minute gift card online and you can send it electronically to your loved one.

Hot deals in November

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

The Election is over, and those ads will disappear. They’ll soon be replaced with holiday shopping ads. Soon, they’ll be haters of those too. As everyone voted on Tuesday, eight Black Friday ads were leaked on GottaDeal. While it’s a hot holiday shopping day, there are other deals and steals this month.1. Cookware
Dealnews said last November, the number of Editor’s Choice cookware deals doubled. If you wait until December of January, you still could save in the kitchen.

2. Tools Deals
A good month to save although Dealnews said last year the number of deals were “underwhelming”‘ compared to years past. Still, November is the best month of the year.

3. Coupons for clothing
If you stack these with sales you can really save big bucks compared to the discounts at the end of the season.

4. Bargain on that wedding dress
Not as many people are buying during the holidays, so you might be able to negotiate a better deal if you pay upfront. Try paying cash, and you might reduce your cost even more.

5. Grocery store savings
With the holidays, lots of holiday meal type things will go on sale. It’s a good time to stock up on those and look for coupons to increase your savings.

6. HDTV deep discounts
Dealnews expects HDTVs to hit record lows in November. Many Black Friday deals will be with lesser known names, but there are still deals. If you don’t grab one this year, wait until the Superbowl.

7. Budget laptops cheaper than tablets
Want a laptop rather than a tablet? The price may be right this holiday.

8. Apple deals
About the only time of year you see savings on Apple products. They won’t be deep, but they will be on sale.

Holiday shopping procrastinators may save more on toys

Courtesy: Toys “R” Us

When to buy your holiday gifts? We have one friend who is done with her Christmas shopping. Others will start and finish it on Black Friday. Could it pay off to push back your shopping? Dealnews analyzed the top toys from last year and their sale prices. The site found procrastination may pay off.

This weekend, the holiday marketing begins. The Great Big Toys “R” Us Book will be released this weekend offering savings from October 28 through November 21st. The book showcases 1,100 playthings, and Toys “R” Us advertises more than $8,000 in savings. So, should you buy now?

The deal site went through records from last year, looking at when the top toys went on sale, to predict buying trends for this year. The big takeaway – forget toy shopping before or on Black Friday. To get the best price, wait until the last minute.

Last year, dealnews said toys hit their lowest prices during the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Air Swimmers dropped 50% in price, Lalaloopsy Silly Hiar dropped 63%, and Let’s Rock Elmo fell 57%.

Waiting may help you save, or it may be the reason you lose out. Inventory dwindles the closer you get to the holiday. Sometimes hot toys simply don’t last.

I’ll never forget the stories my parents told me about the Cabbage Patch Kid I wanted decades ago. They had to go to the back door of Toys “R” Us with a brown bag to get the doll. The brown bag was so they wouldn’t get robbed. We’ve seen this craziness a few times since then on other hot toys. A lot of people question whether the shortage is on purpose, to drive up promotion of the hot toy. There doesn’t seem to be that type of hype or shortage for a product this year, but inventory could still drop the longer you wait. Click here for the Top 15 hottest toys by Toys R Us.

Dealnews wrote, “Deal-hunting is not for the weak! To get the best deals, you’re going to have to sweat a little! This is the price we all pay for getting lowest-ever prices!”

If you don’t want to sweat it, December is usually a safe time to buy your toys for a reasonable price. Wait until mid-December and you may just snag an amazing deal.

Some items, though, simply won’t drop. Dealnews said the LeapFrog LeapPad stayed at $100 all season last year.

So, ignore the sales pitches you’ll hear in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, and on Black Friday. December will be here in about a month. If you wait, you may cash in on savings.

Christmas creep: how early is too early?

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

It seems Christmas creeps into our lives earlier and earlier every year. The decorations have been up at some stores for weeks. This year, Target is already launching holiday ads and we haven’t even hit Halloween. So, what can we expect this shopping season? I predict aggressive marketing and sales.

Stores are fighting for every last dollar. The consumer friendly marketing started early with layaway plans. More stores are offering them.

Many retailers are also offering a version of price matching with Best Buy even offering to match some online deals. This is a big holiday for Best Buy. This year, it’s already shut down stores and it’s dealing with the issue of showrooming. That’s where Best Buy puts electronics on display, and consumers play around with the items in the store. Then, buy the item online at a cheaper retailer. That’s why they are matching some online prices, although there are exceptions to their offer. Read the fine print.

These price matching policies are popping up because Walmart began an aggressive campaign last year before the holiday rush. I put their policy and other stores policies to the test for NewsChannel 5 last year.

I found very few clerks know the policy at Walmart. We also tested a few other stores, and sometimes a price match added ten extra minutes to our shopping trip. It required circulars from other stores and a store manager. At Walmart, it’s supposed to be easier. Most times, the cashier was happy to change the price whether she or he knew the policy or not.

Many of Walmart’s competitors are now getting into the action and making sure you know about their willingness to match prices. The bottom line – stores want you to shop their store rather than shopping around.

Technology is driving this phenomenon to some extent because pricing is more readily available than ever before with a cell phone. Some apps let you scan the UPC on an item, and within seconds you can see the prices online and at other retailers for the same product.

TV ads already airing
This year, Target is getting its message out earlier than years past with TV ads already filling the airwaves. These come on the heels of a big political season when air time is hard to find in some markets especially swing state Ohio.

Ad Age said typically holiday TV ads don’t appear until the beginning of November. The first ad is from a retailer who held off for its major TV campaign until the weekend after Thanksgiving two years ago. Ad Age said back then, Target’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael Francis said the retailer held off on ads based on guest surveys, and point-of-sale data.

Now, there is new leadership at Target and obviously a new philosophy.

In this age of social media, people are sounding off. On Facebook, there are comments like, “A Christmas commercial? ALREADY?? OH come ON. it’s not even Hallowe’en yet! please. PLEASE stop this.”

Target’s response to some of the comments, “We’re sorry to hear about your disappointment. We’ve shared your feedback with our Broadcast Media executives for review.”

 Ads leaked
The circulars or ads for Black Friday usually leak before the TV ads. So, when can we expect those?

A few ads have already leaked, but  nothing major. We should see higher interest stores in the next few weeks.  According to GottaDeal’s calendar of leaks last year, ACE Hardware and Bed Bath & Beyond circulars were out by now last year. On October 24th, BJ’s ad was leaked and Radio Shack on October 26th.

”Tis the season to celebrate ghosts and goblins and the scary weeks that lead up to the December holidays.

How early is too early for you? Click comment below.

List: Black Friday predictions

We’re more than a month away from Black Friday, but dealnews is already predicting what will be a deal and a dud this holiday. The deal site looked deals in previous years and predicted what we retailers will offer this year.

Third tier HDTVs for cheap

  1. 32″ 1080p LCD HDTV for $159
  2. 42″ 1080p LCD HDTV for $189
  3. 47″ 1080p LCD HDTV for $299
  4. 55″ 1080p LCD HDTV for $499
  5. 55″ 1080p 3D LCD HDTV for $789
  6. 60″ 1080p LCD HDTV for $719
  7. 60″ 1080p Plasma HDTV for $569

Laptops

  1. 17″ desktop replacement with Core i7 & 8GB RAM for $525
  2. Basic 15″ to 16″ Laptop with dual-core processor for $179
  3. Mainstream 15″ to 16″ Laptop with Ivy Bridge Core i5 CPU & 4GB RAM for $364
  4. 12″ Ultraportable Laptop with Core i5 CPU for $399

Apple products

  1. Apple new iPad 16GB WiFi Tablet for $449
  2. Apple iPad 2 16GB WiFi Tablet for $299

Apple is expected to discount products 5-10% on Black Friday. Other retailers may have better deals. One store may offer a discount on the iPhone 5, but the deal will be short-lived.

Blue-ray 

  1. Blu-ray player with Netflix for $39
  2. Blu-ray player with 3D for $59
  3. Blu-ray movies from $4

Smartphones

  1. Many will sell for 1-cent or be offered free and may include new models

Tablet & e-readers

  • Apple new iPad 16GB WiFi Tablet for $449
  • Apple iPad 2 16GB WiFi Tablet for $299
  • Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G for $85
  • Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLite for $69

Do you plan to shop on Black Friday? Click comment below.