When it comes to finding the perfect Black Friday deal, there's two things you ought to do this year: Know what you're looking for, and be quick about it.
That's the sage advice of Jacqui Cheng and J.D. Levite, editor-in-chief and deals editor, respectively, of The Wirecutter, who took time earlier this week to explain Black Friday and all of its mysteries and temptations to Motherboard.
If anyone would know the ins and outs of Black Friday it's these guys: Levite's job is to sift through deal after deal, online and offline, to find the best of what the likes of Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, and Walmart have to offer, while Cheng oversees all editorial operations at The Wirecutter, whose entire purpose is to help consumers find the single best product for their money.
"Black Friday is a really dangerous day if you don't have a specific item in mind, said Levite, "because you're going to end up spending money you don't want to spend on things you don't really want."
By going into Black Friday looking for deals on a specific item, you'll avoid "wasting your time and your money" on frivolous items, according to Levite. How many USB thumb drives do you really need?
"It's about knowing what you want to get versus taking the bait on all this crazy Black Friday stuff," added Wirecutter Editor-in-Chief Jacqui Cheng. "Because a lot of that stuff can be not awesome."
The general shift toward online shopping over the past few years means that deals you may find online aren't likely to last as long as they once did, Cheng explained. "Even just a couple of years ago, I felt like I could see a deal for a week, but nowadays a lot of these deals come and go in a day, or a matter of hours," she said. "They don't last very long, which pushes everyone to look for deals all the time."
In other words, if you see a killer Flash Deal on Amazon for an item you've been eyeing, your best best it to buy it right then and there rather than gamble on the off chance you'll find it elsewhere for slightly less.
"The internet is trying to break you," said Levite. "You need to be smart about the deal that you're looking at."
It's also important to understand that not all items are discounted equally, with Levite telling Motherboard that, in his experience, cameras, headphones, and speakers are typically the most frequently discounted items in November. Shoppers looking for these items shouldn't have too hard of a time finding a deal, in other words.
Conversely, items released within the past month or two, or items that fly off the shelves at full price, are unlikely to be discounted significantly. So if you were hoping for a killer deal ona shiny new Apple TV orMicrosoft Surface Book, you may need a plan B.
"Good items don't go on sale because they're good items," said Levite. "They don't need to go on sale because people will buy them even when they're not on sale."
Another tip from Levite: be cautious when it comes refurbished items. The Wirecutter advises shoppers to double-check who, exactly, refurbished the item, whether it's the manufacturer, the retailer, or a third-party, and to understand the warranty policy that accompanies the item. "Be careful about what you're buying," he said. "You don't want to get stuck with a bad product."
One thing you don't have to worry about is making a trip to the local mall, fistfights and all, to make the most of Black Friday. "The truth is I've never seen anything that was available in the store that you couldn't have just gotten online," said Levite. "And usually the better deals are online because [online retailers] don't have to go through the process of setting up displays and things like that; they can just ship it to you when your order it."
"Going to a store on Black Friday is just a social event," Levite added. "It's a way to have some fun, but it's not going to get you better deals."