Today is that annual American tradition known as Black Friday where, the day after Thanksgiving, people will line up at various stores that advertise all kinds of goods being sold at rock bottom prices and they’ll tussle and even fight each other for those low-cost goods (which are usually in short supply). People have been known to interrupt their Thanksgiving holiday in order to stand in line outside while freezing in the cold November weather in front of some store in the hopes of being able to snag some cheap deals.
There’s a video that has gone viral where a local news station in Arizona interviewed a man who has been camping outside a local Best Buy for the past week in the hopes of being the first in line so he can snag some of those rock-bottom sales. He’s been camping in style as he shows off this tent that’s outfitted with a TV set (he obviously has access to a power generator or an electrical outlet of some kind), a computer (with no Internet connection—the guy in the story claims that he was working on getting that), a microwave oven, and one of those portable inflatable beds.
What’s more, Black Friday isn’t just for Americans anymore. That tradition has spread to other countries even though those nations don’t even have a context for Black Friday. (In the U.S. Black Friday is usually the day after Thanksgiving Day, which is a major holiday. It is traditionally the day that kicks off the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa holiday shopping season and it marks the official end of Thanksgiving. The only other nation that I know of that celebrates Thanksgiving is Canada but that country holds its holiday on the second Monday in October.) But now one can do an Internet search and see headlines like Britain Adopts Black Friday With an All-American Frenzy.
I’ve long prided myself of never stooping to such levels as camping outside all night in the hopes of snagging a bargain when the store opens at the unusually early hour of 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. But last year I fell into Black Friday temptation myself because my oven broke (the stovetop still works though). I couldn’t afford to get it fixed (I’ve looked online and I found that, with parts and labor, repair prices start at $150) but I learned through one of my friends that Target was going to sell convection ovens at a very low price on Black Friday. I thought that a convection oven would be a good stop-gap until I can get my larger oven fixed. Besides, since I’m only cooking for myself these days, using a smaller oven would make sense most of the time and such ovens tend to use less electricity than the more traditional kitchen ovens.
I decided against camping outside in the cold weather or even waking up before dawn because I refuse to stoop to such tactics. In fact I didn’t take advantage of any Black Friday deals until Sunday. On that day I basically stayed in my warm bed, woke up at a reasonable time, and hung around in my warm home in the morning. I waited until after I finished eating lunch before I left home because, by that point, all of the Black Friday shoppers had returned to their homes two days ago with their newly purchased cheap loot. When I arrived at Target I found that it was very pleasant shopping with low stress. I didn’t have to battle anyone and, in fact, the store was no more crowded than it usually is on the weekends. I shopped in the aisles and I found an Oster convection oven that was on sale for $30. I was instantly sold because of the low price and the fact that Oster has long been a respected brand when it comes to kitchen appliances.
My Oster convection oven worked perfectly and I used it a few times a week. It was a perfect oven for cooking and baking for just one person. I used it through the rest of 2014 and through most of 2015.
But then, one week before Halloween, that oven suddenly stopped working. The oven hadn’t even lasted a year (it was just one month short of the first anniversary) and it was already dead. The only silver lining is that the oven died the night before the next electronics recycling event in my neighborhood that was scheduled for the following Saturday morning (that event is held only four times a year) so I was able to take that oven there and get rid of it in an environmentally responsible way.
A couple of days later I went to Best Buy where I purchased a Black and Decker convection toaster oven for $80. I already own other Black and Decker products (a lawn mower and a power drill) that I’m satisfied with so I had no qualms about buying that oven. It cost way more than the $30 Oster oven that I purchased on Black Friday. It wasn’t on sale (even though I bought it a couple of days before Halloween). It took a bigger bite out of my tight finances but I’d rather pay more for something that is higher quality and will last far longer than the 11 months that I used the Oster oven that I purchased cheaply on Black Friday last year. (Besides it’s still cheaper than getting my kitchen oven repaired. I will get that oven repaired eventually but I want to stabilize my precarious finances first.)
I recently came across this article titled 6 Black Friday Secrets Those Deal Sites Won’t Tell You About, which had this quote that especially stood out for me regarding my experience with purchasing the Oster oven for $30 on Black Friday last year.
Some products advertised at deep discounts on Black Friday are what’s known as “derivative products”—items made by the same manufacturer that look almost like the standard model but with a few very important differences. Consumer Reports highlighted derivative electronics in a 2009 investigation and found that these products are generally manufactured more cheaply, sometimes with less-expensive components, and that they are generally missing a few features present on the standard models. The magazine says big-name companies like Sony and Samsung have made derivative TVs in previous years; we’ve seen laptop and printer deals from brands like HP in this year’s Black Friday ads that appear to be derivatives, as well.
In other words, I got suckered by both the cheap $30 price and the well-known Oster brand name into purchasing a product that was probably a derivative product manufactured so cheaply that it was destined to not last very long.
I’ve learned my lesson. Never again will I ever make a major electronic purchase on Black Friday. Whatever money I may have initially saved when I purchased the $30 Oster convection oven just wasn’t worth it in the long run. I’m only glad that I wasn’t one of those suckers who camped outside for hours in the cold November night before the store opened in the pre-dawn hours because I would’ve been way more annoyed than I already was when the $30 oven died just a month short of one year.
And if my story isn’t enough to dissuade you from shopping on Black Friday, maybe this video will, which was shot in the wee hours of this morning in a mall in Louisville, Kentucky.