Watch out for Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams. Image: TheUSBPort.

Black Friday is over, and shoppers are already getting ready for Cyber Monday. Two of the busiest commercial holidays of the year attract millions of customers to stores nationwide, but are the deals real or just a scam?

Historically speaking, The Day After Thanksgiving signaled the beginning of the Christmas shopping season for retailers. Business owners opened their stores overnight with discounted merchandise for early shoppers.

Nowadays with the dawn of the digital era and mass media, retailers have gotten bigger and bigger. They now have more ways to promote their sales and deals than ever, creating a year-long narrative all the way until Black Friday.

But, sometimes (some would argue most of the time) these fantastic offers and once-in-a-lifetime deals are just fiction. Here is why you should beware Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and think before you end up yourself the victim of a scam.

Products sold on shopping holidays not always have a discount

Surprised baby. Image: Flickr.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can, at times, bring to life the expression “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Both product manufacturers and retailers are guilty of selling doctored goods to naïve customers who, amidst the craze of getting a bang out of their buck, end up falling for a scam.

Brands have been found manufacturing cheap versions of products just to meet a production quota big enough to supply retailers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

When it is not the manufacturer’s fault, then it is the stores themselves who take the matter into their hands. Some shop owners may replace the contents of a product package to fool customers into buying something that is actually cheaper or not even the original product.

These fake products, also called derivatives, are the reason why every year someone finds a PlayStation made of plastic inside the seemingly original box, or the original console with missing parts, or worse: just rocks to simulate the weight of the real thing.

When is the best time to find the best sales?

The Wall Street Journal conducted a highly controversial study back in 2012 to find out if sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday were truly the year’s lowest.

The publication concluded that, throughout the year, products are more likely to go for lower prices at different occasions other than the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday only offer good deals on video games and electronics above all else. All other product categories sell for less at some other time during the year.

Those insane discounts on huge 4K TVs? You might get them at a better price right before the Super Bowl. That new sofa you wanted for your living room? Summer is the season to buy it, right before new collections arrive in August.

Both during the sales holiday season and over the course of the year, if you want to get the most out of your money it is always smart (and worth it!) to wait.

How to get the most out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals? 

One of the most common practices during Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the advertising of doorbuster deals. These offers are lures for shoppers to get into the store, and once they are in it is hard they come out empty-handed.

Retailers and shop owners make a large part of their holiday season profit thanks to this tactic. Consumers, in general, confuse deals with savings, and this is exactly what stores want and need.

Spending money on a 70%-off product you did not plan on buying is not saving 70% on the MSRP, it is just plain spending. Experienced buyers suggest a list and sticking to it to avoid unnecessary purchases, no matter how attractive they seem.

Target’s deal on the iPhone 7 was a rip-off

Even worse than buying something you did not plan on buying is to buy something just for the sake of it being on sale when it is not.

Stores take advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday frenzy to advertise just about anything as an exclusive deal, discount or offer. This practice lets them get away with marking ridiculous prices on items that typically sell for much less.

2016 has already claimed its first victims on Target. The mass retailer and direct Wal-Mart competitor had an exclusive deal on the iPhone 7. However, it was not an offer. Target was selling the smartphones with a $300 overcharge.

Target's Black Friday deal on the iPhone 7. Image: BGR.
Target’s Black Friday deal on the iPhone 7. Image: BGR.

Target advertised the 256 GB iPhone 7 as a Black Friday deal for $1,129. No add-ons, no gift cards, no memberships, no warranties, just the phone. The regular price of the 256 GB iPhone 7 is $849.

Even more absurd is Target showed the standard price of the device at $1,149 which would translate their exclusive deal as just a laughable $20 discount on the coveted Apple handset. The store did the same with all the iPhones.

How to avoid Black Friday or Cyber Monday scams

As a rule of thumb, seasoned veterans of Thanksgiving shopping recommend always looking for the listed price first at the original manufacturer’s official site. The site may even hold better deals online than most retailers.

Furthermore, it is advised to look for these websites directly. It means no clicking on any ads received by email, or links on shady internet pages.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great seasons for scammers to engage in phishing and data collection as record-low sales blind people.

Cyber Monday is tomorrow, so make sure to be safe before purchasing anything online. Buy from certified retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart, but still look out for shady deals and marketing schemes.

Source: Wall Street Journal