Man wearing a brown hat, white t-shirt and glasses holds his phone while sitting looking in brown paper shopping bags

Debunk dodgy deals this Black Friday

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

When is a Black Friday deal not a Black Friday deal? It sounds like the start of a cheesy joke, but not every deal is all it’s cracked up to be. 

We’re exploring the popular tactics retailers use to persuade you to buy, and we’ll share our top tips to suss them out and spend wisely this Black Friday.  

Some retailers' deals look better than they are 

As shoppers, we trust that the deals we see are legit. But some retailers take that for granted. They use sneaky pricing tactics to make discounts look bigger, or to create a deal that isn’t really a deal at all.  

This could involve: 

  • Raising prices, only to drop them. For example, raising a price just before a sale, and keeping it at the sale price for longer than it was offered at the higher price. 
  • Old, irrelevant or unrealistic higher prices. For example, comparing the sale price to a price that hasn't been charged recently, if at all. Or, comparing the sale price to a higher price that the item didn’t sell well at, so wasn’t a realistic selling price. 
  • Deal swapping. This is moving items from one type of promotion to another, so it’s hard to see what the original price was and how much you’re saving.

Retailers using these tactics could be breaking trading standards law. Most retailers make sure their deals are fair and clear. But some may still try to get away with dodgy practices! 

Retailers use pressure tactics to encourage you to buy now 

Pressure tactics do as their name suggests. They create urgency around your purchase and pile on the pressure to buy now. They’re completely legal but can rush you into making a purchase before you’re ready. Here are a few examples: 

  • Countdown timers. There’s nothing like a clock ticking down right in front of you to remind you that time is running out to bag this deal. If you leave it too long, the deal will be gone. 
  • Showing stock levels. This tactic plays on your fear of missing out. If you know stock is running low, you’re more likely to buy now, while you can. 
  • Showing other people’s interest. Banners that say how many customers have bought an item, have it in their basket or that simply say “selling fast” make us think that if everyone else is buying something, and especially if it might run out, we should buy it too. 

Some pricing is just confusing! 

Other tactics aside, some retailers’ sales pricing is downright confusing! This can make it harder for you to compare prices between retailers and find the best deals. 

  • Baffling bundles. These are where you get a certain combination of items for a set price. For example, a gaming bundle that includes a console, controller and games. Bundle deals are designed to make you think you’re getting a lot for your money. But it can be difficult to work out what the original price of each item is, especially when other, sneakier tactics are in play. When you do price up each item, the bundle may not be as generous as it appears. 
  • Mind-boggling multi-buys. For example, 3 for £20 deals, buy-one-get-one offers, or deals where the more you buy, the cheaper the cost per item is. These offers can trick you into spending more to get the deal when you could have spent less if you only bought what you needed. 
  • Puzzling placements. Discounted items are sometimes placed on shelves or web pages so that they’re surrounded by non-sale items. This draws your eye to the deal and can make you think this item is better value for money. It may not be, though! 

Five top tips to shop savvier this Black Friday 

Our tips can help you suss out sneaky tactics, spend savvier and get the best deals in the Black Friday sales: 

1. Make a list 

Before you browse any Black Friday sales, make a shopping list. This can help you resist buying things that seem like a great idea, but don’t fulfil your needs. Many people use Black Friday to make a start on their Christmas shopping. Your list may include items you want, people you’re hoping to buy for, or a mixture of the two.  

2. Set a budget 

Whether you have a shopping list or the only thing you’re after is a good deal, set a budget. This could be an overall budget, or a limit for each item or person you’re spending on. Having a budget in place can help keep your Black Friday spending affordable. It’ll also help you think carefully before you buy. This way, you won’t regret your purchases later.  

3. Track prices 

Price trackers like PriceSpy and CamelCamelCamel (for Amazon only) show you the price history of an item you’re looking at. This will help you see if this deal is as good as it gets, or if you could save more by waiting. Tracking prices can also help you spot retailers using sneaky tactics so that their discounts look better! 

4. Shop around 

Just because a deal looks good, doesn’t mean it’s the best you can get. Shop around and compare deals. Remember to pay attention to extras like extended warranties if the price is the same. Sites like PriceRunner can help you compare prices across retailers at a glance to find the cheapest deals. 

5. Take your time 

Even if an offer is only available for a very short period or stock is running low, make sure you’ve always got time to read the deal information. This can help you spot sneaky pricing tactics and unpick confusing pricing to be confident a deal is all it’s cracked up to be.  

Sources sourced on 23rd October 2023 

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

Man wearing a brown hat, white t-shirt and glasses holds his phone while sitting looking in brown paper shopping bags Man wearing a brown hat, white t-shirt and glasses holds his phone while sitting looking in brown paper shopping bags