With Black Friday bearing down, it’s time for all you pro shoppers to start formulating your game plan. If you haven’t done your homework already, don’t trip. We’ve got your back with a breakdown of the biggest Holiday season retailers, their Black Friday hours, price matching policies, the works.
Taking the old saying “the early bird gets the worm” to heart — and possibly a shrewd move designed to cut down on the number of deal-mania-induced riots — this year Walmart will be launching its Black Friday specials a week early starting November 22, both in-store and online. But don’t fire up your engines just yet. Walmart has announced pre-Black Friday sales on some electronics, but when you take a closer look at their website, it’s obvious they’re saving the best stuff for Thanksgiving Day, including HP laptops for $178 and 60-inch VIZIO HDTVs for $688. To reserve your place on the front lines, get yourself to your nearest store in time for the 6PM opening on Thursday, November 28.
The fine print:
Walmart’s Holiday Return Policy: Electronics purchased between November 1 and December 24 with a 15-day return policy have to be returned by January 10, 2014. Other items bought during the same timeframe that have a 30-day return policy can be returned by January 25, 2014.
Walmart’s Price Matching Policy: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Week sale items are exempt from Walmart’s price matching policy. Walmart.com also doesn’t offer price matching for items you can find in their stores at lower prices.
This year, Best Buy’s Black Friday deals kick off at 6PM on Thanksgiving Day and end the following day at 10PM. Brave Best Buy employees will be handing out tickets for certain doorbuster items until two hours before opening, so if you want to snatch up some killer deals you’d better skip the turkey and show up early. Among some of the best buys (get it?) are a 65″ Samsung LED HDTV for $999.99, a free Samsung Galaxy S4 with a two-year activation, and 16GB iPad 2’s with Wi-Fi for $299.99. Best Buy is also rolling out something called Midnight Mystery Doorbusters, which can be previewed here after 10PM CST on Thanksgiving. Online deals will be available all day Thursday the 28th (minus crowds, too) at www.bestbuy.com.
The fine print:
Best Buy’s Extended Holiday Return Policy: If you buy something between November 3 and December 31, you qualify for Best Buy’s extended Holiday return policy, which goes until January 15, 2014. Carrier contracts, like the kind you’ll have to sign up for to get the aforementioned free Galaxy S4, don’t qualify. Geek Squad protection is refundable, but if more than 30 days elapse from the date of purchase the refund is prorated.
Best Buy’s Low Price Guarantee and Price Matching Policy: Low price guarantees are offered both in-store and online at Best Buy. This includes local competitor stores and major online retailers. Qualifying online retailers are limited to Amazon, Apple, Dell, Frys, HP, Newegg, Office Depot, Office Max, Sears, Staples, Target.com, Walmart, and a handful of others. Online marketplace vendor prices don’t qualify. If you find a better price at an online retailer, you’ll have to copy the URL, print it out, and bring it in to the nearest Best Buy. You can also call Best Buy’s 800 number and handle it by phone. If Best Buy lowers their prices within 15 days of your purchase, you can also get the difference back. Non-qualifying purchases include the obvious, like mobile carrier contracts and other services.
Target’s official Black Friday sales begin Thursday, November 28 at 8PM local time and the mayhem won’t let up until closing time on Saturday the 30th. If you prefer to shop online and you don’t want to wait until then, Target.com will be featuring 15 online-only deals beginning November 24 and running for two weeks. Some of the coolest deals to set your sights on include an iPad Air Wi-Fi 16 GB for $479 (which comes with a $100 Target gift card) and 50″ Element LED TVs for $229.
The fine print:
Target’s Holiday Return Policy: Unopened electronics (including no-contract cell phones) can be returned for a refund or exchange within 30 days, but the clock doesn’t start ticking for items bought between November 1 and December 25 until the day after Christmas. Items bought online can also be returned at physical store locations — if there’s no accompanying receipt, you’ll need to show a valid ID.
Target’s “Shop with Confidence” Price Match Guarantee: According to Target’s mission statement (or “promise to our guests”) they routinely compare prices to ensure they’re offering the best prices available. If you buy something and find it cheaper elsewhere, whether in a local competitor store’s ad or online at Target.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRUs.com, or BabiesRUs.com, you’ve got 7 days to stake your claim. This is only valid for identical items. Lower prices found in other Target stores are excluded, and online competitor price matching isn’t allowed in Alaska or Hawaii. For the extended laundry list of other exclusions, read this.
Secrets are apparently not the strong suit of Staples, and for eager shoppers champing at the bit to get their purchase on, that’s not a problem. In what’s being reported as a “leak” (but is actually just a smart marketing move) Staples has already begun advertising their upcoming Black Friday deals, which include a $49.99 Samsung Galaxy S4 (with a two-year contract), a $79 Kindle Fire, and a $179.99 HP Chromebook. Black Friday festivities kick off Thanksgiving Day from 8PM to midnight, picking up again at 6AM the following day.
The fine print:
Staples Return Policy: Returning purchases to Staples is a bit more time-constrictive, even during the Holidays. According to their policy, tech devices like computers and smart phones have to be returned within 14 days of purchase. Software can be returned at any time, as long as it’s unopened and is still sold by Staples. Open software can only be exchanged for the same product and can’t be refunded. If you don’t have a receipt, you can get an in-store credit, but the amount of the exchange is based on the lowest selling price within the last 30 days.
Staples Price Match Policy: If you find a lower price on an identical item you buy online or in person from Staples, you have 14 days to show the proof. As in most cases, Staples will only match the prices of select online retailers. These include Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Office Depot, Office Max, Quill, Medical Arts Press, Reliable, Sam’s Club, Walmart, WB Mason, and Xerox. Exceptions include liquidations and clearance items, whether price more cheaply at a competitor or another Staples location.
Kudos to Radio Shack for opting to stick with tradition and not attempting to force Black Friday upon its customers a day earlier, and for giving its employees the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families or pursuing their own shopping endeavors elsewhere. Radio Shack doors will be opening early at 8AM on Friday, November 29, although online sales will kick in 8 hours earlier at midnight. Choice deals will include the Samsung Galaxy Note II for $99.99 and the 16GB iPhone 5c for $49.99 (both with a 2-year contract).
The fine print:
Radio Shack Return Policy: Radio Shack doesn’t offer an extended Holiday return timeframe, but it does give you a full 30 days to get your money back. Not all items bought through RadioShack.com can be returned to physical Radio Shack stores, but they do still fall under the company’s 30-day money back guarantee policy.
Radio Shack Price Match Policy: Radio Shack’s policy toward price matching for identical products is limited to brick and mortar competitors and doesn’t include online offers, BOGO offers, clearance items, or (oddly enough) Black Friday promotions. It also excludes purchases made in Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The great thing about shopping at Amazon.com is also one of the drawbacks for those who enjoy getting elbow-deep amid the throngs of desperate deal-seekers: no crowds. Their unique position as one of the only online-only major retailers has also enabled them to kick things off early. Happening right now and leading up to the 28th, you’ll find all sorts of daily deals — but in smart fashion, they’re saving the best for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Unlike the rest of their competitors, Amazon isn’t revealing any planned specials for hot items, but you can bet they’ll be offering deals to compete with the best of them. Keep watching.
The fine print:
Amazon’s Return Policy: Any item you purchase that gets shipped between November 1 and December 31 can be returned for a full refund (subject to some restrictions) by January 31, 2014. To get a full refund, media has to be unopened and electronics have to be in new, undamaged condition in the original packaging. If you buy something through a third-party Amazon marketplace seller, be sure to ask the seller what their return policy is.
Amazon’s Price Match Policy: Amazon’s game is to constantly try to offer the lowest prices on products. Unfortunately, their price matching policy extends only to TVs and cell phones. According to Amazon’s TV low price guarantee, you can qualify for price matching if they lower their prices within 14 days of shipping your order. Also, if you find a lower price elsewhere within the same 14-day timeframe, they’ll match the price … but that only applies to qualifying retailers.
Now that you’ve got the goods on what to expect from the biggest retailers on Black Friday 2013, it’s time to throw on your shopping shoes and get busy. But be careful. It’s a turkey-themed jungle out there.