Black Friday Sales Scams

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It happens every year like clockwork. Big retailers generate sales ads with “unbelievable” savings on items that shoppers want to buy. Then, why do so many customers end up burned on Black Friday?

Black Friday Tricks

black-friday-scamsThe oldest Black Friday scam in the book is the super-limited inventory scam. This is the same scam that car dealers use in their advertisements. Sure, you can get a 2012 Ford F-150 for no money down and just $99 per month, the thing is, there is only one make and model and options package that gets you that price and there aren’t any of them left. How would you like a new truck for $2,500 down and $299 a month instead?

It is illegal to advertise items that the retailer does not carry or never has in stock. These laws are the result of the old, now illegal, bait and switch scam where retailers would advertise an item that they did not ever have any intention of selling in order to get suckers customers into the store. Then, the shoppers would be offered a different, more profitable item in its place.

However, those laws are easily circumvented by having a very limited inventory of sale items. Some stores go so far — out of legal obligation or otherwise — to mention just how few of an item they have in stock. Many ads will say something like “Minimum of 4 per store,” or something like that. In other words, unless you camp out, get in the front of the line, go straight to the items without getting waylaid, and grab them right away, you cannot get that price. Some retailers only have ONE of those items in stock.

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When a store knows there will be demand for HUNDREDS of the item at that price, the only reason to have so few in stock is to ensure that only a handful of customers get the items. The next week, after the sale ends, there will be dozens in every store, or easy availability for ordering online. This turns the sale into a lottery where only the lucky few can “win” the sale price.

Crappy Black Friday Sales

Retailers know that customers want to nab great deals on Black Friday. Some shoppers are naïve enough to think that every Black Friday sale is a great Black Friday sale. Retailers prey on these unsavvy shoppers by advertising items at the normal sale prices, that is the sale price that was available last month, and will probably be available again within a few weeks.

Be sure to at least check the price of the item at a competing store or online at a major retailer like before leaping to buy that “cheap” television set on the front page of that electronics store ad. Chances are good that the price isn’t that great after all.

Black Friday Item Replacement Tricks

A favorite in the electronics and computer industry, with this scam retailers sell and item that is similar but very different from the item you think you are getting. Computers with less memory, or RAM, than would typically come inside of that level of computer are one good example of this scam.

Another favorite are television sets that have similar make and model numbers but that are just different enough to be cheaper thanks to inferior or missing components. Something like a 65″ Sony LCD TV  that has the previous model’s insides but the current model’s case and remote would be one example.

Some retailers and manufacturers go so far as to make different model numbers for each retailer in order to be as devious as possible. Instead of the highly rated and well reviewed MSC99381D model, store will offer a lower quality, cheaper MSC99381O model on Black Friday where unsuspecting customers will purchase and assume that they got the same item for a great price.

Avoid Black Friday Sales Scams

The best way to avoid Black Friday sales scams is to research before heading out to go shopping. Many retailers have released their ads online this year to avoid having them leaked by internet deal websites. Google your holiday items and be very careful to not the exact model numbers to avoid any surprises. Also, check the pricing on Amazon to be sure you aren’t getting a phony sale price. Finally, check out deal websites like or to find out what deals are really hot and which deals are no.

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