Is Black Friday shopping really worth it?

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Sabrina Almeida

Are you a Black Friday shopper? It’s still not that big of a deal in Canada when compared the United States where all roads lead to the mall the day after their Thanksgiving. In fact, it’s only been a few years since retailers here have started to offer deals at this time to stop customers going south of the border.

Traditionally, it’s the biggest shopping holiday in the US, just like our Boxing Day. Initially the concept (not the madness that accompanies it) made sense as Americans lined up for deals to save on Christmas gifts.

I took advantage of it just once to shop for toys. At the time we lived in the US and spent Christmas with family in Toronto. With a lot of kids on our gift list, the incredible deals were worth the trip at 6 am. It was the only time I indulged in the madness in the five years I spent there. But at least I can say that I did it!!!

KB Toys was just down the street from my home which was part of the draw. I made my way rather hesitantly, almost certain that I’d be the only fool there to be greeted by shuttered doors. Who’d be mad enough to shop at that time or open the store?

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As a first-time Black Friday shopper, I was totally amazed by the scenario that played out in front of me of people with shopping bags that were almost my size. Thankfully I wasn’t shoved over or clawed at like some of photos that have made it to the news. Nonetheless, I soaked in sights wide-eyed and came home with my trophies feeling like I had climbed the Rockies.

For years Canadians have scoffed at their American friends for the single-mindedness and aggression displayed during this mother-of-all shopping events. In return the Americans have pointed fingers at our Boxing Day madness. Having witnessed both, I can say the difference lies in the deals not so much the behaviour. Well okay, we’re a little more gracious!!!

I am amazed at how some families both sides of the border have a shopping strategy and fan out in the mall checking things off their shopping lists and communicating their accomplishments via cellphones. Ours is not that committed.

Frankly we wouldn’t give up our sleep to join the dedicated shoppers who line up in the wee hours with coffee to keep warm. We’d saunter in mid-day, if at all, only to be greeted by stores that were in a mess, half-empty shelves and expired early-bird deals. Staff were also less enthusiastic, probably worn out by the chaos earlier.

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For us, it simply wasn’t worth the effort unless we were shopping for gifts. That too we learned the hard way. Last-minute Christmas shopping didn’t work because little was left on the shelves by that time. This was the only motivation for us because you could get deals at any time in the United States, and especially at the end of every season. Some helpful staff also advised us to comeback in a few months when items were marked down significantly. Sadly, this strategy didn’t work for us in Canada where few stores have a surplus.

Given the idea behind Black Friday shopping madness, Boxing Day has never made sense to me as it came after Christmas. Nothing could be more narcissistic as this was shopping purely for yourself. To be making purchases for next Christmas would be stretching it quite a bit. Though, when in their late teens my sons were more than willing to stretch their Christmas dollars by waiting a day to choose their presents.

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Some helpful Canadian store assistants too let us in on a secret. Boxing Day deals were available the whole week and sometimes in January as well. Then we discovered that discounts in February, generally considered a slow season, were well worth the wait.

Now with the war between online and brick-and-mortar stores heating up, neither Black Friday nor Boxing Day shopping makes sense any more. Believe you me, I’ve been receiving pre and post Black Friday and Boxing Day deals virtually all year with some Christmas sales in summer. Off-season discounts are far sweeter and the online ones sometimes unbelievably great.

But that’s if you can resist temptation and don’t fear missing out. The stores will do anything to get you in there because it is rare that you will leave empty-handed. In fact, I’ve heard that some stores in the US open late afternoon on Thanksgiving Day to make the most of it.

Not convinced? Stay home and away from the computer on these two days except to make note of the ‘incredible’ deals. Then compare them with others during the year when retailers are desperate to sell! It’ll be more than worth it! -CINEWS

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