A few examples of some unbeatable Black Friday savings:
- A Vizio 60" LED Smart TV on sale at Wal-Mart for $688, about $300 less than you can buy it anywhere else.
- The top-rated Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone is less than a dollar ($0.96) at Sam's Club, $200 off the regular price.
- A 13-piece hard anodized cookware set at JC Penney for $100, that's half price.
But Dworsky cautions that only a few of the items advertised in the Black Friday circulars are what would be considered true door busters. And in many cases, those are limited to just a few per store.
"Sears, for example, now has hundreds of door busters. Believe me, they're not all great deals," Dworsky told me. "But if you're careful and you compare prices ahead of time, you'll be able to recognize which are the bona fide door busters where you're saving 50 percent."
Who has the best deals? Jon Vincent at BlackFriday.com picks Wal-Mart, Kohl's and Best Buy . He calls the Black Friday ads for Target a disappointment. Dworsky agrees.
"In the past, Target has been very good," he said. "This year Target is not so good, except for an Xbox 360 with Kinect for $199."
How to snag the deals you want
You need a plan to be a successful Black Friday shopper. Consumer World put together a list of tips to bag a bargain on Black Friday.
Here's how to start:
- Read the ads. You can preview the Black Friday sales circulars at sites such as bfads.net, blackfriday.com and blackfriday.gotadeal.com. While online, visit store websites for unannounced bargains and look for deals and coupons on their Facebook pages.
- Evaluate the deals. Use price comparison websites such as PriceGrabber, PriceSpider, Shopping.com to see if the advertised price really is a bargain. Use BizRate and ResellerRatings to check the reputation of an online merchant.
- Check the reviews. For customer reviews, head toEpinions.com or read the user comments posted with products on Amazon.com . For professional ratings, visit sites like Consumer Reports, Steve's Digicams (for cameras), PCMagazine or PCWorld (for computers), CNET (for all sorts of electronics) and the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.
- Save more with price-match guarantees. Many chain stores now offer some sort of price protection guarantee. You may be entitled to a refund if the price goes down at the store or a competitor offers the exact item at a lower price before Christmas. Sites such as FreePrice Alerts, CamelCamelCamel, PriceDropAlert and DealAlerter and will let you know if the item you're tracking drops in price. Consumer World recently published a list of price-matching policies at major retailers.
What about something you want that's not on sale Black Friday?
"We recommend waiting until Cyber Monday because sometimes there will be a coupon you can use online," said Vincent at lackFriday.com. "If not, just check the weekly circulars and see if the item is put on sale before Christmas."
Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan.