Tag Archives: Target Corporation

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.

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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.

Turn plastic gift cards into mobile money

Did you get a gift card for the holidays? Instead of burying it in your wallet, how about burying it an app on your phone? Some plastic or paper gift cards can now be converted into mobile versions.

There are apps that allow you to store a gift card’s information or some businesses like Target allow you to store the information on their mobile site. When you save the information, the card will be turned into a barcode on your phone that you show the cashier at checkout.
Apps like SWAGG make it easy to store all your gift cards in one place on your mobile phone. The app has teamed up with many national retailers including Brookstone. All you need is the app to check out with your gift card. No need to have the actual card handy once you load the information into the app.

I think a mobile gift card would make me less likely to spend it because it’s easier to forget about when it’s not in front of you on a daily basis. Plus, what happens if your phone stops working? I think it’s a good backup option just in case you lose the original, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to go all digital. Then again, I’m holding out on mobile banking at this point too.

 

 

Back to school shopping – avoid the marketing gimmicks

I’ve been working on a bunch of back to school stories for NewsChannel 5 to save you money whether your child is in elementary or high school or even college. The first one in our two week back to school stories involves searching for a store that offers the best deal on a basic back to school shopping list.

Back to school shopping is the number two season for retailers behind holiday shopping. Yet, some retailers make it difficult to find the sale items. It’s interesting how all the stores market differently in the store.

They all market the products on the front page of their weekly circular. When you get inside, it’s sometimes impossible to find the deal. I was looking for a recent penny deal at an office supply store, and found the product on the end of an aisle in the back of the store. It was hidden, and the average shopper would have no reason to head back to that section or know the product was in that area.

The reasoning — the penny deal brings you into the store and then the retailer wants you to spend money on other products you see on your way to finding the penny deal.

I’ve found the office supply stores the hardest to find the back to school sale items. They are mixed in with all the regular office supplies and nothing draws your attention to the sale items.

In the big box discount stores, it’s a different story. They have back to school sections that makes it easy to find everything you need. There is a difference in where the stores set-up their displays. Walmart typically puts the  back to school section in the front of the store. At the Target I visited, it was in the far back corner so you have to walk through the whole store before you find the back to school section.

Don’t be fooled by all the marketing. Stick to your list, and grab the best deals. Want to know who offered the best prices in my test for NewsChannel 5? Tune in tonight at 11 or check back tomorrow for the details on my blog.

Coupon policies continue to change

Extreme Couponing is coming back for season two, as stores continue to alter their coupon policies. You can’t say the changes are because of the show, but it’s interesting how so many stores are tightening their policies.

Target’s new policy makes it clear you can only use one Buy One Get One Free coupon, so you can’t get both items free. Rite Aid made a similar tweak to its Buy One Get One Free policy allowing just one Buy One Get One Free Coupon. Rite Aid also won’t let you use a Buy One Get One Free Coupon on a Buy One Get One Free offer.

Rite Aid also limited the number of identical coupons you can use to four so you can’t buy hundreds of the same item. That happens on Extreme Couponing. In one episode featured on the TLC website, the woman bought 50 toothbrushes and another bought 600 pieces of candy.

With so many changes, it’s obvious there is more scrutiny at the counter.  I’ve shared my recent problems getting discounts, but after some arguing I’ve gotten the cashier or store management to make it right. However, a woman in Idaho claims Walmart took her questions to an extreme. Thanks to a reader who told me about this story that aired on a Fox station in Idaho. According to the article, the woman and Walmart management were discussing the “Ad Match” policy, and that set off a string of actions when the woman allegedly tried to record the conversation with her phone. The article says Walmart did not respond to the TV station’s calls, but it’s an interesting situation.  I’d like to see the cell phone video to see exactly what happened, but it’s a reminder to keep your cool when you don’t agree with a store policy of any kind. Getting emotional and angry won’t solve your problem, and could make it worse.

I’ve always scrutinized the checkout process, and always make sure I’m getting every discount. It’s important to watch, because I’ve noticed mistakes. Click comment and share your latest coupon experience.

Related links you may like:
Coupons shouldn’t be this difficult to use
Coupon craziness continues
Don’t let coupons lead you to buy “EXTREME”ly odd products

Cash for your electronics

Did you get a new cell phone this year or computer? Recycling programs that pay you cash for your old electronics are growing in popularity.  It’s a good incentive to keep this bulky electronics out of the landfill.

Cell phone carriers and independent sites are offering cash incentives for your old electronics.  It’s a good way to earn some cash and keep your plastic out of the trash.  There are websites willing to buy all these items: iPods, iPhones, cell phones, cameras, e-Readers, laptops, video games, game console, GPS, DVD, movies, MP3 players, digital cameras, calculators, laptops, external drives, and tablet eReaders.

Here’s a look at some of your options:
Ebay Instant Sale – This site, like many, ships your items for free which is a nice perk so you’re not wasting money on shipping.  I priced two items — a computer and iPhone.  A Dell Latitude D620, Core 2 Duo 1.66 GHz in good condition is worth$59 and an 8GB iPhone 2G is worth $66. If the item isn’t worth anything (I guess if you calculate the condition wrong) it will be recycled for free.  The money you earn is added to your PayPal account.

Wirefly also offers free shipping and will send a check within 30 days. It offers up to $60 for an 8GB iPhone 2G.  In good condition, it pays $51.80. It offers $59.50 for the Dell Latitude.

Gazelle is another ecommerce site,  It didn’t offer to buy the 8GM iPhone 2G, but offered $40 for the 4GB.

Make sure you check out the company first, and read their FAQ so you know their policies. For example, Gazelle does not offer phone support. That may or may not be a big deal.

You Renew wanted newer iPhones and didn’t have an offer for the 2G.  It also didn’t take the Dell Latitude D620, so this is the site that offered to buy the fewest products.

The nice thing about You Renew is that the site even takes devices and pays for the shipping if your item has no value. As an added bonus, the company will either plant a tree or give a donation towards a domestic renewable energy product.

NextWorth offered $53.26 for the 8GB iPhone 2G.  NextWorth teams up with Target, and offers the same service online or in Target stores.

Flipswap takes cell phones only and requires the ESN number on the phone to track it and ensure it’s the one that arrives in the warehouse. It appears the site is offering $36.38 for the 8GB iPhone, but you don’t know for sure until you enter a bunch of information about the condition of the phone and the ESN number.

Cell for Cash, as its name suggests, only buys old cell phones. They offer a set price without asking questions, but expect the phones to be in good condition. It wasn’t entirely clear in the terms and conditions how the company handles phones that don’t meet its expectations, so it’s worth checking out before you commit. Cell for Cash will send you a check in the mail.  It offered $20 for the 8GB iPhone.

Another option is to trade in your cell phone with your carrier for money off a new plan or phone.  You can also try Amazon’s recently expanded trade in program. It works a little differently, because you’re not offered cash.  Amazon pays you with a gift card that’s added to your account. I couldn’t find the same iPhone I compared on other sites nor the Dell computer. This program seems to offer money for new technology, but it’s offering good prices so it’s worth a check.

Erase your digital footprint
Before you send your electronics to a company, check out consumer reviews and feedback to ensure you’ll get the cash you deserve.

Also, make sure you erase all your contact and personal information and perhaps remove the SIM card if possible. You may even consider taking it to your local mobile carrier to see if they can wipe everything for you for a small fee. Some websites that buy electronics also offer the service. I wouldn’t be as nervous with a regular cell phone but smartphones are full of rich information that can be used to steal your identity.

Have a favorite site that offered you cash for your electronics? Share it with our community.

Related links you may like:
Erase your digital footprint
10 consumers reports you should check
Keeping your name off a sucker list
Recovering from identity theft