How to Not Get Ripped Off On Black Friday: A Guide

By Gary Cutlack on at

Black Friday was fun, a few years ago. When it was a US-only institution, it was fun to sneak a deal here in the UK, blagging something on import for a few quid less than the exchange rate permits. But now it's become a full capitalist nightmare. Everyone has a "deal" and half of them are rubbish. Here's how to not feel bad come Regret Saturday.

Amazon's done a lot of work to make people think Black Friday is a thing it invented. As always, it's gone big on the deals, with its Black Friday offerings starting last week, with 'early' deals a week before that. The bad news for shoppers after a bargain is that a lot of the discounts going live on the site require an Amazon Prime subscription – so that £79 lump is going to negate all but the maddest of crazy discounts. 

Related: All The Best Early Black Friday Deals, Right Here

Amazon has various kinds of Black Friday deals on the go. There are Lightning Deals that last for a few hours or until everything's sold; Deals of the Day, which last for... a day; and then there are longer-term deals that last until Amazon has decided it's no longer Black Friday (a couple of days after actual Black Friday). There's a gigantic pile of tat on offer, with DVD boxsets, light bulbs, microphones, trampolines, shoes, battery banks, dog mattresses and almost every category of thing covered. You can do better than that.

Plan Ahead

The absolute worst possible thing you can do is buy something on a whim because someone, somewhere, or an algorithm based on what you bought last year, says it's a good deal, and you're bored and buying things is at least something to do. Do you actually want it? Is it a thing you need? What you should do, right now, is make a list of things you really do want and current best prices, like this:

Massive hard drive: £39.13
48 Mars bars: £20.14

Then, come Black Friday, you're free to spend as much work time as you like seeing if the things you want are cheaper anywhere than they were today. If not, save your money and still feel like a winner.

After all, put yourself in the place of a retailer. No one buys your crappy stuff on Black Friday, so what are you going to do? Put the price UP and see if that works? Or slowly and secretly make everything even cheaper a few weeks later to clear the living room of the excess stock?

For added price security, it's always worth running Amazon deal prices through Camel Camel Camel, a site that charts item prices over time. This way you can see if £17.87 for Lego set 60074 is, historically, a good price or not to be jumping in at.

Let Someone Else Do The Work

You could do worse than sit inside with a cup of tea while pressing F5 in front of Hot UK Deals's BF section all day and weekend, or (cheeky plug) Gizmodo's own UK Black Friday deals hub, as there's going to be an army of deal hunters posting their finds. Things will get snapped up in seconds, mind, so make sure you're signed in to everywhere – those seconds spent looking for that bit of paper with your password written on it could cost you dearly.

Get The Cashback

It's always worth remembering at this capital-intensive time of year that through bizarre promotional activities to do with commissions and advertising, sites like Quidco and Topcashback exist – register and click their affiliate links when buying and you'll get a random percentage of your money back, with very few strings attached.

Remember It's Not Just Amazon

Pretty much every retailer gets into the Black Friday spirit, so don't automatically assume Amazon's going to have the cheapest price.

Argos has so many deals it's created a page and done a graphic. There are TVs and phones and even clothes on sale (do Argos even sell clothes? Apparently now they do.)

John Lewis has a page that stresses its price-matching options, although with Black Friday deals often over in seconds as one man stands, victorious, over the crowds with a discounted hairdryer in his bloodied hands, there might not be time to put in a price match request.

Game's gone mad and set up a custom subdomain, although for a change they seem to be acknowledging the fact that Black Friday is just one day so its deals aren't live yet. Sensible.

Currys has a black tag event running now. There's a Halfords page, there might be some cheap sandwiches and woman stuff to be presents in BootsSmyths has lots of cheap(er) toys, and your local newsagent is still doing that thing on Pringles it always does where it's £1.99 for a tube or two for £3. You can never go wrong with that. 

Just look at it all:

Or Do Nothing

If you really can't be bothered staying up until 3:45am to see if Amazon is shaving £0.19 off the price of an external hard drive caddy or camping outside PC World for the chance of getting a (slightly) cheap (er than usual) 2016 model Android tablet, then don't. It's as simple as that.

Remember that most retailers have sales year-round, and a quick check of a site like Camel Camel Camel will show you that stuff isn't that much cheaper on Black Friday than it was on a random day in July. Retailers love a good excuse to shift stock quickly and so just because you fail to buy something in a Black Friday sale doesn't mean you're going to be paying extortionately more for it should you buy it at a different time.

Failing that, try writing a letter to Father Christmas outlining all the things you want, then burning it so the smoke goes up into the sky where his elves can read it. That method is more likely to deliver useful products than Amazon's sea of discounted rubbish that's being fought over by an army of angry men.