Surviving Black Friday – How to Shop Safely and Bag a Bargain

Black Friday and Cyber Monday used to be very American affairs … that was until about five years ago when we all decided we wanted in on the action. Us Brits have now fully embraced the Black Friday phenomenon and made it our own. 

Retailers start promoting their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals WELL before the days themselves. In fact, many of us spend most of November scouting out the very lowest prices on everything from kids Christmas gifts to summer holidays – and everything in between! 

With most of these purchases happening online – particularly this year (thanks to a very inconvenient global pandemic), many consumers will be concerned about safe shopping. After all, being ripped off or defrauded would seriously take the shine off Christmas. 

As always, we’re here to help you keep on top of your finances, so let’s take a look at how you can shop safely this Black Friday.

First thing’s first, what are Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US, while Cyber Monday is the following Monday. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. So in 2020, Black Friday falls on 27th November. Cyber Monday, therefore, will be on 30th November. 

It might seem like Cyber Monday, and particularly Black Friday, have been around for decades, but they’ve only really been ‘a thing’ since 2005. Before that, there were reports of discounting by some retailers, simply to make the most of the fact that schools and many employees, especially state employees, often have the Friday after Thanksgiving off. People often used this day as a shopping day to get ahead on their Christmas purchases and retailers responded with special deals.

As for the name, Black Friday, it’s believed that the term originates from the time of year when many retailers started to actually turn a profit, thus going from ‘the red’ to ‘the black’.

Anyway, back to it. Let’s learn more about bagging a bargain online without being burned. 

When is a deal not a deal?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both a retail marketer’s dream. They allow retailers to promote their discounts as one-off, ultra-low prices that consumers won’t find any other time of year. ‘Grab our special Black Friday deals now before they’re gone’ they might say. Or ‘One-time only Cyber Monday low prices’. 

The trouble is, more often than not, these low prices aren’t one-offs at all. Consumer champions Which? carried out a study in 2018 that looked at the prices of popular consumer items in all categories, in the six months running up to Black Friday and the six months after. They found that 95 per cent of products were available at the Black Friday prices at some point in the following six months. Not such exclusive deals after all, then!

How to check a deal is as good as it seems:

There are a few things you can do to check you are really getting a rock-bottom price when doing your Cyber Monday and Black Friday shopping, such as:

  • Check the price of the product on several different retailer websites
  • Check the historic price of the item using tools like PriceRunner
  • Make sure you’re happy with the actual price, not just the level of discount

Never heard of the brand? Run a mile

It’s really easy to get carried away during both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. How many of us have bought an item simply because it was very cheap compared with other similar items, only to find that it is faulty or the quality is substandard? 

Some unscrupulous retailers will offer cheaply produced products at very low prices as part of their promotion at this time of year. But one of the best ways to avoid falling for this trick is to only buy recognisable brands. You know, the type you would buy at any other time of year when you aren’t feeling giddy from all the bargain potential!

Look out for scams

As well as bad deals, there are serious scams taking place over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period. Here are some of the most common scams to look out for:

Selling non-existent products

Some fraudsters will post fake advertisements to attract consumers to buy non-existent goods over the Black Friday period. They take advantage of how keen people are to grab a great deal and hand over their payments without checking credentials. 

To avoid these scams, make sure the website you’re on is genuine (check for dots in weird places or jumbled letters, e.g., or Stick to reputable well-known websites and big name brands and double-check you are on the site you think you are on before you click ‘place my order’. 

Using fake reviews to attract buyers

Fake reviews are very common and not that easy to spot. If you’re attracted to a particular item or retailer because of great reviews, check they are not unrealistically positive. If they follow the same format, this could indicate payment was made in exchange for reviews.

Online card scams

Some fraudsters simply use Black Friday and Cyber Monday as an opportunity to steal yet more cash from unsuspecting consumers through either phishing methods or through stealing personal data through unsecured payment systems. It’s vital to check if a retailer’s payment system displays the padlock symbol, indicating it’s secure. Also:

  • Don’t share your PIN with anyone online
  • Be careful putting in card details more than once
  • Use a credit card when possible
  • Don’t use a public computer when shopping online
  • Don’t store your card details on your computer or phone

We really don’t mean to be all doom and gloom about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There are definitely serious bargains to be had for those who do a little homework and shop safely. But it does take a little extra effort to make sure you’re shopping wisely. Good luck!

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