Surviving "Black Friday" Madness

Shopping Lessons to Remember

Okay, I confess. I actually took part in what's termed "Black Friday" for the first time, and survived! In the process I learned a few things that may help others when the next opportunity to 'shop till you drop' comes along. Here's my list of lessons learned:

#1 - It's not necessary to pack a can of Mace, get up at 3 a.m. and slug your way to the front of the line. I left the house at 7:30 a.m. and headed for a major retailer's store - not a 'big box' outlet - and found relatively few shoppers at that hour.

#2 - Keep an open mind. I went out to buy a smaller TV for a second room in our house and had my eye on a 22" LED by one manufacturer that had been on sale at a $30 discount for nearly a year, hoping the price would drop even more. It didn't. But the price of a 24" LED set I'd researched that sat next to it, made by another well-known manufacturer, had been slashed - normally $279, at other stores $239 as a rule, but on Black Friday it was selling here for $199! The picture was equal in quality, the slightly larger size would actually fit in our TV cabinet, and that brand was the same as a larger TV in our other house that we've owned for more than 25 years and is still going strong - so I bought the 24" set with the slashed price.

#3 - Use your shopping smarts. I brought with me two gift cards, earned through that store's rewards program, totaling $140. Using those and buying the set with my store card linked to that program garnered me even more rewards points and a final purchase price (including sales tax) of $73.88 for the 24" TV!

#4 - Do your research in advance, and believe reviewers of a product if they point out major flaws. On-line comments about the 24" set glowed with praise, EXCEPT for the quality of its sound. Every single purchaser loved its picture and easy-to-use remote, but hated the small speakers and horrible grating noise. When I got the set home and hooked it up, it was clear why everyone else gave the sound such bad reviews. It was atrocious, so much so that my wife promised never to turn the set on unless I did something about it.

#5 - Always have a Plan 'B' in mind. Fortunately we'd faced that same problem with a 40" TV we'd purchased the previous winter and I knew what the solution was: buy a set of external speakers (or a sound bar). Back to the same store. One inexpensive purchase later and lots of frustration hooking up the speakers, only to hear sound nearly as bad as from the 24" digital TV itself (by the way, ALL digital TV's have lousy sound, no matter what the size), I returned those speakers and headed for a big box store known for its well-informed sales staff. Sound bars were selling for about $300, the sales price. Ouch! However, the TV guy sent me to the computer department to check out smaller speakers normally used for MP3 players, computers etc. That did the trick. I bought a set of speakers made by one of the most recognizable and quality-producing firms in the business at a sale price of $89, came home, hooked them up and got stunning sound!

So, yes, it took me three trips totaling about 40 miles, some aggravation and a lot of determination, but we ended up with the largest TV set our cabinet can accommodate and phenomenal sound for its size - and saved at least $250 in the process, plus earning points toward our next purchase at the original store. And, we helped the U.S economy earn about $52 billion in the process. Not bad for a few hours on a Friday morning.

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