The people that this story really applies to have probably been camping out in the Wal-Mart parking lot since Tuesday, but in any event, if you’re planning on braving the Black Friday crowds this year, you need to have a strategy in place. The foolish amateur will wake up, throw on a sweatshirt, and go barreling out the front door to get to Wal-Mart by three a.m., but you’re smarter than that. So I’ve compiled a few tips for the novice who wants to shop smart.
First, you have to check out the local deals. For years, most people have done this by browsing the shopping ads on Thanksgiving (in my family it’s not uncommon for people to feverishly flip through the ads at the dinner table while eating). But while that tells you what deals are going on in your neighborhood, your chances of getting to the store and finding that it’s all sold out of your desired item are pretty high.
Before you go charging out the door like a Conquistador about to sack the village of Target, be sure to check Milo.com. The local shopping website offers product and price information for more than three million items across 52,000 stores in the U.S., and this year the site has aggregated over 5,000 Black Friday deals, ranging from toys and electronics to power-tools and household items. The site normally sees approximately one million unique monthly visitors, on average, but that number peaks in the days surrounding Black Friday. Last year, the site saw 250,000 visitors between Thursday and Monday.
More importantly, checking Milo.com before you rush out to Wal-Mart will give you a chance to make sure that your item is still there. The site offers a list of stores that are carrying the item you’re looking for, which will significantly cut down on the amount of mad scrambling you will do today.
Of course, to make this even more efficient, you can check your Milo shopping app, but it is currently only available on the Android OS, so iPhone users are out of luck.
But once you get to the store, how do you know you’re getting the best deal? One way to find out is to use a barcode scanning app like Amazon’s new Price Comparison app to see which retailers have the cheapest item. Much has been made of the Amazon app since it was released on November 22. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be living up to the hype. I scanned a number of objects around my house, and Amazon only recognized one item--a book. I would recommend Barcode Hero, which has a much more extensive inventory and combines a number of social features, such as Twitter and Facebook integration, the ability to create wish-lists that you can share with your friends, product recommendations, and more. I compared Amazon’s Price Comparison app and Barcode Hero by scanning everything in my liquor cabinet. Barcode Hero emerged the victor while Amazon struggled to recognize items.
Unfortunately, Barcode Hero only offers price comparisons from online retailers. For example, you can scan a bottle of fine wine at a brick-and-mortar store and receive a list of price comparisons for online retailers, but will not get a price comparison for other brick-and-mortar stores in your area. I scanned a bottle of Mirassou Pinot Noir and looked up a price comparison on Barcode Hero, which told me I can buy the same bottle online for as little as $10.99, but I happen to know that I can get it at WinCo for $6.99, because that’s where I bought it. Because I’m classy like that. (On a side note: whenever I shop at WinCo or Wal-Mart, I always wear my University of the Pacific sweatshirt so everyone knows I went to college.)
So in the event that you want to see what other deals are available in your neighborhood, you can use ShopSavvy, an app that not only provides price comparisons for online retailers, but for local stores as well, using your iPhone or Android GPS to locate the deal nearest you.
For example, I scanned the barcode of a book I’m reading (Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves, in case you’re looking for new reading material), and the app showed me the nearest locations where I can buy that book as well as list of prices. I can get the book for $14.99 at Borders or Barnes & Noble, both of which are within a couple of miles, or I can pick up the book at Target for $12.74. The app even provides a list of Targets in my area, a checklist noting which ones have my item in stock, their phone numbers, and driving directions to their locations.
This app also seems a tad bit limited, like the Amazon app, in terms of what it recognizes as an item. Neither ShopSavvy nor the Amazon Price Comparison recognized a bottle of Captain Morgan (ShopSavvy thought it was a fruit plate and Amazon thought it was a Wii game). Barcode Hero, on the other hand, did recognize it, which is important if you’re visiting family and looking to load up on booze this holiday season.
With these simple tips and a tank-full of gas, your Black Friday shopping should be a resounding success.
Image source: businessreviewusa.com