Black Friday Doorbusters Are A Sleazy Way To Lure Customers

Pay no attention to those ridiculously cheap TV sets and game systems—also called doorbusters—that retailers use to lure in hordes of holiday shoppers, notes CNN. They’re the equivalent of that little dangly thing anglerfish use to catch food.

Here are some of the ugly facts about doorbusters in CNN’s article:

1. There are usually very few—maybe just a couple—of items per store, so catching one is more like winning a drawing than going shopping.

2. Cheap electronics aren’t necessarily of the same build quality as regular priced models from the same company. Both our readers and our parent publication, Consumer Reports, have noted this practice of selling “derivative” items at steep discounts to unsuspecting consumers.

3. Rainchecks are rare, but don’t always matter even when they’re offered. Sometimes a store never gets enough additional inventory in to fulfill the demand they create by promoting such steep discounts. The same thing can happen to online orders—you may end up waiting months for some answer from the retailer on when you’ll get your appliance (or just as likely an alternative).

“It’s a sleazy practice,” said Craig Johnson, retailing expert and president of retail consulting group Customer Growth Partners.

“I am old school,” said Johnson. “If a retailer is advertising a juicy deal and they are not prepared to have in sufficient quantity, don’t advertise it. Or give consumers a raincheck.”

Johnson said it’s not enough for retailers to mention that they’ll have such limited quantities of a product on one of the most-hyped shopping days of the year.

“Retailers aren’t winning any customers. They are just pissing off people,” he said. “It’s poor retailing practice.”

“Dirty secrets of Black Friday ‘doorbusters'” [CNN Money] (Thanks to David!)
(Photo: Helder da Rocha, bungledb)


Edit Your Comment

  1. coren says:

    I don’t understand this “just pissing customers off” – is there anyone going to a Black Friday sale at this point who isn’t aware of the deal (so to speak) – of course they don’t have 200 xboxes for half off. If they did, what would be the point of getting in line at 2 am or on thanksgiving or tomorrow?

    • bohemian says:

      @coren: Obviously the answer is yes because people still keep showing up at 4am and violently mob stores.

      Many of the stores are still being dodgy about how many units of an item they will have on hand. There are also retailers that will have zero of the advertised item, that is even more dishonest.

      • anduin1 says:

        bad thing was that I was in one of these mobs when I was picking up a ps3 bundle edition, I literally shoved someone thats how frantic it became once they opened the doors. I mean it looked like one of those horse races but with a stampede of people… I felt so ashamed after doing that.

      • coren says:

        @bohemian: No, I think people still know then. Hence camping out and the Walmart incident last year. GOTTA GET MY DEAL RRRARRRGH

    • QuantumRiff says:

      @coren: What is an acceptable limit though? If they advertise half off XBoxes*(Limited to quantity on hand) then, they have 5 in the store.. you would be pretty pissed (or at least I would).. And I have seen the same stores, magically pop out more stock, later the same darn day, at full prices, since they “Ran out earlier, and got more”.. Right..

      • buckeyegoose says:


        Well yea they did run out, of that SKU. Especially at best buy alot of the door buster deals they run are in a effort to clean out their warehouses of slow moving merch.

        Also its no uncommon for referbished stuff to be getting sold at that price, while the brand new is what they put out later in the day.

        3 Years of working black friday has gain me this BB knoledge, if it’s dirt cheep, it might not be that great of a deal when u step back to realy look at it.

    • Cyco says:

      @coren: Thing is, most people don’t read the fine print that says the store will only have 3 Xbox 360s for half off, so when they’re the 50th person in line, they might think they have a chance. I think the big warning CCN is trying to get across is that stores are being shady and deceptive with the way they are advertising. Just like they have been every year before. The only thing that will stop it is people not showing up. But we all know that won’t happen and neither will retailers changing the way they advertise their junk.

  2. Deezul_AwT says:

    Hey CNN? You know what else is sleazy? Giving a teaser like “Later in the hour, we’ll tell you how to save $1000 on your credit card bill. But first, let’s show you a cute story about a Youtube video.”

    It’s called CAPITALISM. Vote with your wallet. Sounds like CNN is running out of story ideas. I hear Ric Romero might have some.

  3. katia802 says:

    I’m looking to purchase a few good hours on my couch with a book and a cup of tea. Nothing in this world is so good a deal that i’d camp out at walmart overnight for it.

    • NotYou007 says:

      @katia802: This is why I am torn. I do not have to camp out all night. Doors open at Midnight, not 5 AM so I could sit in a warm store for 4 hours if I had to. My netbook could keep me busy for 4 hours with ease.

    • redskull says:

      @katia802: Amen. I can’t think of anything that would entice me to get up at 4am, stand in a huge line out in the cold for hours, risk life and limb in a stampede only to stand in a checkout line for another 2 hours. Black Friday is a good day to stay in the house.

      I’ve gone to BF sales in the past, but never, ever again.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      @katia802: I’m with you. I don’t even like going to Walmart when it’s not Black Friday. I generally refuse to leave my house on Black Friday, it’s just not worth it.

    • kaceetheconsumer says:

      @katia802: Yeah, I’m going to make a gingerbread house with my little kid on Friday. Granted, it’s a pre-made kit (no need to push her to frustration with anything elaborate), but it’ll be fun and we won’t have to contend with insane shoppers.

  4. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    So the massive crowds of people shopping on black Friday are an indication that this article is right, and people are just pissed off.
    Or am I mistaken? Those people are out for the spirit of togetherness and love.
    Thank you CNN Obvious…errr Money.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The picture is awesome. Where they come up with these unique and hilarious images?!

  6. tailstoo says:

    Retailers all seem to think that if they can really blow the doors off of something on BF, then people will not only buy the door busters, but many other, profitable, items while they are there.

    I worked as a buyer for a large national electronics chain for many years, and on black Friday, we NEVER saw people who came in for the crazy deals buying anything but the cheap crap. Most came in with the items they were buying circled on the flyer, and that’s all they bought.

    Then I would have to answer complaints for the next several weeks from people who didn’t get in on the crazy deal. Honestly, I don’t know why companies do it. It only teaches people not to buy unless it’s a crazy good deal.

  7. Outrun1986 says:

    Staying home here and shopping online if I buy anything on that day this year.

    It seems like it does work to draw a large crowd, but is the large crowd actually buying the most profitable items for the store or are they going in, raiding the loss leaders and walking out with nothing but those (or in some cases nothing at all). Yes it does generate a lot of traffic but how many of those people are actually buying the profitable things?

    Its kind of like a store liquidation sale, I have seen these stores packed, but no one buying anything. Consumers are not stupid and they are wielding the power of the internet to find out about these shopping traps. BF and liquidation sales have been on the news many times, so this is really nothing new even if you don’t have the internet the information is available.

    As another person mentioned, the person buying the cheap laptop wants the cheap laptop and nothing else, they won’t buy the warranties or overpriced cables. They likely only have x amount to spend on that item. The person who wants the cheap laptop and does not get it will walk out and buy nothing. So its not like the person buying the cheap laptop is making them any extra money, but its the advertisement for the cheap laptop that is drawing in the crowds. They have to sell the laptop to that person who will buy nothing else in order to generate the publicity.

    Although I don’t understand the frenzy over cheap laptops these days, you can get a cheap, comparable laptop any day of the week online or if you just wait for one to go on deal. Same with a lot of other items. Its not like a few years ago when there was no other way to get a $300 laptop other than BF and most other laptops were in the $700 range.

    I haven’t seen anything in this year’s BF ads yet that would be worth standing out in the cold of NY state for hours for.

  8. BoredOOMM says:

    $3.99 Turtlenecks are not seconds. The store sells the same inferior quality clothing everyday.

    I will accept a loss leader and will have fun singing off key carols and trying to evoke smiles from others next Friday.

  9. Ragman says:

    Camping out for half a day or more isn’t worth the discount on door busters as far as I’m concerned.

    I hit BB’s BF deals online on Thanksgiving and have better luck in getting what I wanted. That was the only way I got a 22″ LCD that never lasted long in the stores. The shipping charge was more than worth NOT having to go in on BF and stand in line.

  10. quail says:

    Read the article yesterday when my wife pointed it out online. What would tick me off more than finding out they only had five of something on hand to sell, is to get home and discover that what I bought was the dummed downed, cheaper version of something. Those HDTVs, and Blue Ray players, and the like were made to be sold at discount (i.e. you’re paying a hundred bucks less because it was made to be a hundred bucks less). There’s only the illusion of a bargain.

  11. Android8675 says:

    I’ll totally agree with #2, a lot of the “door busters” on Black friday are made and sold ONLY on black friday, and you’ll never see them again. 3 Years ago Best Buy sold a $299 laptop (unheard of back then for lap tops), was a Toshiba that looked about as cheaply made as you could get.

    They sold out in about 30 minutes (we had like 100 of them at our store alone) and we never saw them again. I think 2 of them came back for service in the last 3 years, both were under an extended warranty, and both of them got replaced on the spot with a new computer.

    Something to think about when you go to buy the $150 netbook from Acer this year (guessing, but given the trend I would NOT be shocked to see this come Friday), spend $30 on the 3 year warranty and get a new netbook when the one you buy breaks.

  12. FlashFlashCarCrash says:

    the very concept of black friday makes me sick. Retailers dangling deals in front of people in the hope of a bait and switch and customers acting like savages over a 20 dollar DVD player. It’s disgusting.

  13. LiveCheap says:

    Its not just the doorbusters. has been offering up Dell Minis today but when you go to buy them, they are sold out. Under a minute?!? Give me a break. Maybe we have to start forcing them to be like car dealers and posting how many at this price and give the Serial number.

    On Black Friday, they raised the price of the Panasonic G10 46″ plasma which they were touting as their special deal. Special is right, $80 more special than the day before!