It’s that time of the year again!
It’s that time of the year again when everyone is slowly beginning to do their Christmas shopping and an event known as Black Friday occurs.
For those of you who are unaware, Black Friday is a day in the year when retailers around the world offer major discounts and promotions on their products or do they?
A few years ago, I worked as a part-time sales assistant in my local tech store. I remember it being a great part-time student job that not only helped me boost my confidence but also taught me customer service. I would even argue that this job helped my career in tech!
As great as this sounds, there was a day I dreaded most, that day was Black Friday. I know, that this may sound surprising, but I remember it as an extremely busy day that included me running all around the shop floor trying to offer the best customer service I could, whilst being under pressure to close my sales quickly as there was a queue of customers waiting.
With that in mind, I wanted to share 5 things I feel you need to know as customers…
1. Stores will have limited stock quantities
One of the most common questions I remember being asked was “Can you check for stock out back”. I guess customers didn’t realise that our warehouse wasn’t that big, this was something that was also true at my second student job which happened to be at a local supermarket.
That’s why if you are planning to make a purchase, it’s worth seeing if you can reserve online to collect in-store or simply get to the store earlier, but bear in mind that many will have the same idea, so it might get extremely busy.
Some stores may be offering offers for the entire week, which is worth bearing in mind as it will stop people from panic buying on Black Friday.
Now, I know what you’re thinking and no the best offers aren’t necessarily on the day, and if they are and you happen to buy something, it’s worth seeing if they have a price match policy after you’ve already purchased the product, as some stores do.
But the main point that I’m trying to make here is that stores will have limited quantities of items so it’s worth planning ahead!
2. Stores will be busy!
Moving on from limited stock quantities, it’s also worth knowing that if you plan to visit a store, it’s very likely to get busy pretty quickly and people are likely to panic buy.
One of the biggest complaints I remember having was about the waiting times. Our store had a policy that everyone had to work on Black Friday unless they had exceptional circumstances. But with everyone being on-site, we organised a pretty decent queuing system for customers who were looking to seek advice before they purchased.
But even with everyone being in-store and the queuing system being in place, it was busy and customers would often complain about the waiting times.
That’s why once again, I recommend reserving the items you know you are going to buy online.
If you do plan to visit a store it’s worth taking a bottle of water and some snacks in the event that you are waiting in queue for a very long time. Just be mindful of the store’s policies on what you are allowed to bring.
3. Watch out for add-ons!
Ah, the dreaded add-ons! Many tech-savvy people will warn you against going with add-ons such as extra services for the product you’re buying, software or any other item the salesperson may recommend you buy.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some salespeople earn a commission for recommending a particular product with the item you’re buying. Sadly we didn’t get any commission, we just had high KPI (Key Performance Indicators) targets.
But the reason that I am mentioning this is that some of the products or services the sales assistant may offer you are simply unnecessary or more expensive if you decide to buy it with the item you are purchasing. So it’s worth researching local and online offers depending on the product or service.
Some add-ons may generally be worth it! For example, if you are buying a new fridge and they offer to take your old one away for under £10 or even free – That’s a brilliant offer!
Or if you are buying a laptop for your elders and they offer you an Internet Security deal which is actually pretty decent.
I chose my choice of words carefully here because as an IT professional, I will probably never recommend that anyone purchases “antivirus” software with a Windows device. That’s because Windows Security is a pretty capable product.
But if you are buying for business or for someone who doesn’t know a great deal about online threats and security, an Internet Security solution will be beneficial as these often offer extra features to ensure you are protected. These may include website advisors as well as other mechanisms to keep the user safe.
Since we’re talking about security software, my current recommendations for home use are Sophos Home, Emsisoft and Eset, all of which are solid products. But with that in mind, Windows Security is still perfectly capable.
4. Do your research, not everything is a great deal!
This is a big one as not all deals are as good as they seem. Some items may be on a Black Friday sale, but they may have been cheaper during another sale or promotion the company had throughout the year.
That’s why it’s worth checking online price trackers to see if you are getting a good deal. Whenever I look for deals and want to see if I am getting a good deal I tend to check out a wide range of sites, but the most common one I use is PricySpy which will not only compare the prices of the product at most of the major retailers but it will also tell you what the price was like throughout the year.
That brings me to my next point, it’s also worth using your phone in-store to see if you are getting the best deal. I know that if you’re in-store, it’s tempting to purchase the item even though it’s slightly cheaper in a different store online. That’s why it’s always worth asking whether the store offers price matches.
It’s also worth remembering that that little that you’re saving online, may turn out to be the same price or even more with postage. So buying in-store may work out cheaper anyway.
With tech, it’s also worth researching the product you are looking to buy, more specifically the life cycle of the product. I see a lot of this online (particularly in the second-hand market) where an online shop is offering extremely cheap smartphones or laptops, but the products either have extremely short support cycles or don’t have them at all, so it’s worth checking.
5. Older tech is still worth it!
Speaking about older tech, just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad! I remember people always wanting to buy the latest and greatest iPhone or iPad when in actual fact their requirements are simple and buying last year’s model will not only be perfectly adequate but it will also help save you money!
Obviously, there are things you need to bear in mind when buying older models such as product support life cycles and how long it will get updates for, but for the majority of tech, this isn’t really a problem, especially if you are buying kitchen appliances or simple products such as Bluetooth speakers.
Like in all cases, when buying tech, it’s still worth comparing prices with other stores, as what may seem a good deal may not actually be one. This is especially true for older models.
When it comes to other devices such as smartphones, you may be able to pick up some pretty good deals on last year’s models.
Since we’re talking about smartphones, it’s also worth seeing if there are any deals on contracts and sim-only deals. I remember that there was an occasion when I switched to a better sim-only deal during Black Friday, and it was a great deal. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what the deal was or who the provider was, but I do remember it being really good.
6. Give less-known brands a try!
As a tech reviewer, I often try products from new or little-known brands and let me tell you something, in many cases these products offer better quality and performance compared to similar products from the big brands!
Going back to my days working at a tech store, I remember customers hating giving these brands a go, even if it’s the same manufacturer who just had a rebrand. I remember having quite a few customers telling me that they wouldn’t buy a TV if it wasn’t from Sanyo, and if I tried to explain that Sanyo got acquired by Panasonic and show them the Panasonics, they would often refuse and go to a different store.
That is perfectly understandable, but it just goes to show that sometimes giving different brands a try may be a good thing.
Now obviously not all of these brands will offer good quality and performance, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they just might.
I remember showing people Sonos for the very first time and on most occasions they would be against it because the brand wasn’t known to them, but they always left being surprised at how such a small speaker could offer such incredible sound.
With Black Friday only around the corner and shops already starting their Black Friday sales, it’s important to be vigilant.
I know that over the last couple of years, some Black Friday deals in some stores were questionable, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a bad deal. It’s one of the reasons research is important, especially when it comes to checking prices throughout the year.
But as a whole, Black Friday can be a lot of fun, especially from the customer’s side and when you are shopping in-store.
After leaving my tech store job several years ago, I visited many tech stores on Black Friday, I don’t know what it is but in many cases, stores put out products that they don’t usually sell in store and you can pick up some pretty awesome bargains.
But, I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere in the world, but here in the UK there aren’t many tech stores left, especially when it comes to the tech store chains, which is sad but that’s the reality with online shopping.