I would rather lick a dirty sidewalk than camp out all night for a “doorbuster deal” on Black Friday. OK, that’s a bit dramatic and totally gross, but you get the point. Holidays are for precious family time, not for combat couponing with sales-rabid, sharp-elbowed strangers.
Is there any way to get in on doorbuster deals without the chaos of the holiday crowds? This year, more than ever, the answer is an emphatic “yes,” according to several people “on the inside.” We spoke with current and former employees of Target, Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop and even eBay to get a handful of holiday shopping secrets most retailers don’t really want you to know. Here’s what we found.
Black Friday laptop leaks
Thanks to endless ad leaks, we already know there will be some incredible markdowns on PCs on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But according to former Best Buy manager Chris Roberts, “The lowest price-point laptops are rarely the best value for your dollar.”
Laptops are like cars and what’s under the hood matters. Those crazy doorbuster deals – $100, $200 even $300 laptops – often mean subpar screen quality, no storage to speak of and processors from the flip-phone era.
Several people mentioned the Lenovo Yoga C940. It’s a stellar new 2-in-1 with a gorgeous 14-inch 4K touchscreen display, speedy 512GB SSD and impressive all-day battery life. Sales on the company’s site have already started, and on Black Friday, its $1,750 price tag is getting slashed by $450, making it $1,300.
Game the bundles
Thanksgiving week is a great time to level up on gaming gadgets, “especially when it comes to bundling and getting more for less,” says GameStop’s Matt Koch, head of stores for the Southeast region. For a PS4 or Xbox specifically, console-plus-games bundles are often better deals than standalone console discounts. Also look for savings on gaming accessories such as keyboards, monitors, headsets and graphics cards.
You can get $100 or more off of some of the most popular gaming consoles including the PlayStation 4 (1TB) Three-Game Bundle and the Xbox One S Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Deluxe bundle. If you want to layer additional savings here, Koch advises people to trade in old gadgets, get cash and bookmark retailers’ specific holiday-special sites like GameStop.com/GiftIdeas. Koch calls this a “secret backdoor to savings” no else one really knows about.
I was surprised to find streaming services topping the list of techy must-haves. Normally we see more headphones or tablets in those coveted spots, but this year, content is king, and gifting a streaming service is a unique way to personalize a gift for someone who’s notoriously tough to shop for.
There’s a 50% discount off of MotorTrend On Demand. It’s a streaming channel loaded with live auto shows and races, plus more than 8,000 episodes of all things awesomely automotive, like “American Chopper,” “Overhaulin’” and “Top Gear.” As of publication time, the site for this deal wasn’t live – it begins Nov. 25 – but the deal runs from Nov. 25 to Jan. 2 via MotorTrend.com/Holiday.
Doorbusters for Dummies
Doorbuster deals on TVs look mighty appealing from afar, but that doesn’t mean the sets themselves are worth your money. “Most people just want something big, they don’t care as much about color contrast, dynamic range and black levels,” Roberts says. “They just want a 75-inch that says 4K on the box. They spend hundreds of bucks on all the cheap stuff, not knowing that it tends to be disposable.”
When it comes to TVs especially, all of the people we spoke with said those doorbusters are rarely – if ever – worth it. Most of them are derivative models with lesser specs.
How can you tell the difference? Experts say to hunt for recognizable names, real reviews – use a tool called Fakespot to make sure the review is legit – or a price history tool like camelcamelcamel. “When you bring up an item clicking on the extension,” writes IT expert Richard Cucinotta from JustAnswer.com, “it shows you the history of all pricing on Amazon, so you can see the Black Friday price is actually the lowest price.”
“Best Buy will have a huge Samsung 70-inch 4K Smart TV for just $550. That’ll be the best price we’ve ever seen for any name brand TV of this size,” says Michael Bonebright, a consumer analyst for DealNews.com. Normally priced at $900, that $350 cut is a good one.
Bonebright says another important insider tip here is that “if you can only shop one day of the year, make it Thanksgiving” because you’ll have less competition that day. According to a recent Shopify survey, just 27% of U.S. consumers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, compared to 70% on Black Friday and 64% on Cyber Monday.
If you love it, watch for the sale
Insiders also say to watch for random daily price drops on in-demand items, whether it’s an Apple gadget, which typically doesn’t get more than a $10 or $20 discount, or a hot-right-now smart home gadget or appliances.
One of my favorite gadgets of the year is the Tineco PURE ONE S12 Cordless Smart Vacuum. It’s a seriously smart sucker – see what I did there? – and it uses AI to adjust its suction power to perfectly match your floor. It’s a quiet, deep clean, and the fancy little LED headlight in the front is great at revealing just how dirty your living space is (but not for long!).
This normally sells for $600. But I keep seeing it marked down on Amazon (for Prime Members) by $100, and the company had a one-day sale on this model (30% off) earlier this month. I have a feeling we’ll see more markdowns as the holidays approach. Using the browser extension InvisibleHand also shows you if you can find it cheaper anywhere else.
Go all out for accessories
So just what do people who work at electronics stores actually shop for themselves? Accessories such as hard drives, headphones, Bluetooth speakers and even service plans are the big ones to watch for, according to Roberts, who says “retailers are practically giving them away on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
Another gadget making my top 10 list this year, Sandisk’s ibi smart photo manager, is getting a $30 discount on Black Friday to make it just under $100. Set it up through an app on your smartphone and it backs up photos, videos and social content automatically. It’s like your own personal cloud for photos and videos, and with 1TB storage; space for approximately 250,000 photos or 100 hours of video.
The other one I plan to pick up is Soundcore Rave Mini Party Speaker, which has stellar reviews. This rugged indoor/outdoor Bluetooth speaker booms out the bass, and the LED light show glows, ebbs and flows along with the beat. It’s waterproof and shockproof – it even floats back to the surface when fully submersed – and continues to pump out the tunes. It’s $50 off at Walmart on Black Friday, making it another great gadget that comes in under the $100 mark.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.