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What It Takes to Score a Black Friday Doorbuster Deal

Arm yourself with Black Friday doorbuster knowledge to increase your odds of scoring the perfect deal!
Updated

By now we all know what pre-Black Friday shopping looks like. Throngs of shoppers camped outside of retail stores, hoping to score one of the season's first doorbusters. Unfortunately, a majority of those shoppers are waiting in vain; landing a hot doorbuster requires more than just waiting in line. As professional deal hunters, we're here to show you how to increase your chances of getting that deal, and more importantly — how to decide if it's even worth the time and effort in the first place.

To clarify: The term "doorbusters" is used a lot during the holidays, especially on Black Friday, and refers to ultra-cheap items that brick-and-mortar stores sell to lure shoppers into their stores. Quality-wise, these products aren't going to win any awards. But when it comes to pricing, these goods are as discounted as they come. And the good news is, not all doorbusters require setting up camp in the cold. But if you're inclined to do so, here's how to maximize your chances of scoring a doorbuster deal.

Research the Doorbusters Beforehand

If you're attempting to snag the cream-of-the-crop doorbuster deals, then you'll have to choose wisely; while there may be time to secure multiple items during your trip, your best opportunity to get any limited-stock deals will be in the first few moments of the store opening. Don't waste that time on something trivial if you really just wanted one of those amazing TV deals, for example. To help you distinguish which doorbusters are worth pursuing, check out our Black Friday ad analyses.

Turn to Social Media for Deal Reveals

While many stores will post some choice deals in their Black Friday ads, in order to drum up hype well before the event, there's a very good chance that some retailers will have some last minute deals to reveal the week of. This is especially true if a store feels that it's being outshone by its competitors. A good way to find such timely offers is through store social media channels like Facebook or Twitter. While consumers had to jump through some extra hoops this year before getting any sneak peeks, there's a good chance that the immediacy of social media will be ideal forums for last minute offers.

Be Prepared to Wait

Once you know what doorbuster deal you're after, it's time to think strategy. Unfortunately there's no hard and fast rule for when you should arrive at a store in order to be one of the lucky few to get a limited-quantity doorbuster. According to our own experiences at suburban brick-and-mortar stores, you can generally show up about two hours early to get the most highly-anticipated doorbusters. That said, there are always the people who decide to camp out for days.

Luckily, this tactic doesn't seem to happen en masse, though you can easily tell if it's getting out of hand with a simple, advanced drive-by. It may be a bummer to see that there's already an unruly line outside of your preferred store, but at least you can assess whether shopping in-store on Black Friday will be a waste of time in advance.

Be First in Line

Even if you are one of those shoppers who does camp outside a store for three consecutive nights and are number 10 in line, that doesn't guarantee you'll get that doorbuster deal you've been waiting for. Doorbusters are very limited-stock items and it wouldn't be surprising for some stores only carried five (or perhaps fewer) of said item. The one absolute rule we can say about Black Friday doorbusters is that if you're not first in line, don't expect to get the deal you're after.

Manage Your Expectations

Again, because retailers typically stock a limited supply of doorbusters per location, your chances of walking out of a store with one are slim. And even though Walmart is guaranteeing 21 of its doorbusters should they sell out, not many stores offer this guarantee. (And even with Walmart's guarantee, you'll have to return to the store sometime before Christmas to pick up your item.) All in all, the chances of a doorbuster selling out are very high. As a result, all shoppers should manage their expectations, so that if there are no doorbusters left to be had, shopping in-store doesn't end up feeling like a major disappointment.

Get a Doorbuster Deal Online

While there's no guarantee that every doorbuster will make its way online, we typically see extremely similar discounts and doorbusters from online merchants during Black Friday. Amazon in particular likes to undercut competitors throughout the weekend. In fact, in previous years we've noticed that 70% of in-store deals were available online for the same price or less. Of course, if there's one specific in-store item that you must have, hoping that it'll be online is a gamble (albeit one in which the odds are in your favor).

Don't Become a Victim to the Doorbuster Hype

The bottom line is: Doorbusters are bait. They're designed to get you in-store so that retailers can sell you a host of other less-discounted (and sometimes overpriced) accessories. Just remember, if you are lucky enough to snag a doorbuster, don't spend your savings on a $100 HDMI cable, extended warranty, or other astronomically expensive accessory. Make a list of the item(s) you want to buy and stick to it. Notably, most accessories can be found online at much cheaper prices than what you'd pay in-store. Remember, not every deal you see on Black Friday is a good deal.

Now that you have an idea of what it takes to score a doorbuster you can relax a bit. You're prepared! But, if you're still unsure of whether or not you should shop in-store for doorbusters on Black Friday, check out our helpful flow chart below.

Black Friday deals

Still confused? Then let us do the dirty work for you so that, come Black Friday, all you have to do is turn on your laptop and click "buy." Stay in the loop this holiday shopping season and sign up for email alerts for deals on all your wish list items.

Senior Features Writer

With over a decade of experience covering technology, Louis Ramirez has written for CNET, Laptop, Gizmodo, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @louisramirez.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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7 comments
mobillon
I quote: ..."WAIT! How are you reading this, then?!"...

Answer:..."A friend trying to convince me to shop online printed it and showed me!...I hope he will post my response online so that you can read it!"...
collinsb8553
@ greg the gruesome..........What the hell, really????????????
Greg the Gruesome
@Lindsay

I think I've seen the light, so to speak. I was going to respond to the description of certain shoppers as "...those who think it's all about shopping in-store on Black Friday specifically..." with "So you're telling me that there are people who look forward to Black Friday sales but haven't noticed that in recent years, stores have opened for these sales on Thanksgiving?" but then I realized there must be some shoppers (how many, though?) who know that there are doorbuster sales at brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving but won't go shopping on that day, yet they will go shopping on Black Friday.

However, I don't think the very best doorbusters will be offered or matched online (not in noteworthy quantities, at least).

As far as it being a joke, that in and of itself doesn't mean it can't be improved by some updating.
dealnews-Lindsay
@Greg the Gruesome A lot of the deals will end up being released online, in order to remain competitive with e-commerce retailers that will offer similarly low discounts. The ads will never say this though because they want to entice you in stores. The point of the line of questioning above was to address those who think it's all about shopping in-store on Black Friday specifically, so we stand by it. But also, it's clearly meant to be a joke.
Greg the Gruesome
@Lindsay

O.K., but...

>Wait, you know most stores offer their doorbusters *ONLINE* on Thursday, right?

The best doorbusters are restricted to the brick-and-mortar stores, aren't they? And brick-and-mortar stores now open for Black "Friday" shoppers on Thanksgiving.

The second step in the flowchart:

>And you seriously *STILL* want to go to a store on Black Friday?

This and other steps definitely need to be updated.
dealnews-Lindsay
@Greg the Gruesome That's the first thing we mentioned on the flow chart
Greg the Gruesome
This flowchart needs to be updated because the first round of doorbusters happens on Thanksgiving now.
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