Every year, major electronics retailers and discount stores offer “amazing deals” on personal computing devices, such as laptops, tablets, and desktops.
Here are some reasons you should be skeptical, and perhaps avoid them altogether.
1. Door Buster Mechanics
1.1. What is a “door buster”?
Door busters are limited quantity, deeply-discounted items, used to lure shoppers to the very beginning of a sale.
Once they sell out of a particular item, the deal ends.
Similar, an “Early Bird” special might feature an item that is NOT limited in quantity, but the deep discount only applies early in the morning. During regular hours, the item goes back to its normal (higher) sale price.
1.2. Why Use Door Busters?
Retailers use door busters and early bird specials as a lure to attract shoppers, who show up in the hopes of getting one of the deeply-discounted items.
While there, the shoppers are likely to purchase other items.
1.3. How Can Retailers Afford It?
Some retailers make up to 1/3 of their profit for the entire year on Black Friday weekend.
In addition, although deeply discounted, most door buster / early bird items are still sold at or above cost, meaning that the retailer at least breaks even or perhaps settles for a lower profit margin than normal, but still turns a profit.
2. How Do You Know if a Door Buster is a Good Deal?
Retailers will often list the full retail price next to the door buster price, which could be 1/3 or less.
The retailer can list whatever price they want.
For example, let’s say that the door buster is a toaster oven, that the retailer states, normally retails for the full price of $60, but the door buster price is $30.
On the one hand, perhaps $60 is the normal shelf price of the toaster oven, when it’s not on sale. On the other hand, maybe the toaster normally retails for $50, but $60 is the manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (SRP) for the item. Or, maybe the SRP is $50, the daily shelf price is $40, but the retailer just picked $60 because it sounds good.
In each of these scenarios, the $30 “deal price” for the toaster carries a different value.
To find out the real value of the “deal”, you have to do a little bit of research.
The easiest way to do this, is by checking a competitor’s price for the same item, online.
2.1. Large Retailers Manipulate Model Numbers
On simple items like hand tools or certain appliances, one manufacturer model number is the same across all retailers.
You can quickly get an apples-to-apples comparison by checking for the exact same model number online or at another store.
However, large chain retailers often work directly with the manufacturers to make sure that there is a retailer-specific model number.
They do this to avoid competing with deals offered by other retailers, for the same item.
For example, let’s say that Wal-Store and Arrowmart are two large, competing chains. Wal-Store is offering a toaster oven, model TO-341, for $30. You try to look this up online, only to find that no one except Wal-Store sells a model TO-341.
You look at Arrowmart, and they sell model TO-352, for $50.
Doing a little more research, you find that everyone except Wal-Store and Arrowmart offer a TO-320 series.
Which one is better?
Often, the last digit is tied to the specific configuration or exterior – in this case, it’s probably the color. Perhaps 341, 351, and 321 (3×1) all indicate white, 3×2 indicates black, 3×3 indicates red, and maybe 3×7 is stainless.
In this example, the Wal-Store and Arrowmart both have deals with the manufacturer to supply a chain-specific model of the same appliance.
34x models all go to Wal-Store, while 35x models go to Arrowmart, and everyone else sells 32x models.
In this example, you would compare a TO-341 to a TO-351 at Arrowmart, or a TO-321 sold anywhere else.
It takes a lot of time and research to figure out the manufacturer’s model numbers, but it’s the only way to know if you’re comparing apples to apples.
2.2. Compare Specs
Especially for personal electronics, you need to carefully compare specs.
Something as simple as a cordless drill might have very few specifications (specs):
- What voltage? 18 vs. 20 vs. 24 volt
- What chuck size? 3/8 vs. 1/2
- How many batteries does it come with? 1 or 2?
- Does it come with extras, like bits or a carrying case?
It’s easy to compare two deals offered for a similar price:
- 18v Cordless Drill, 2 batteries, carrying case, 12 bits
- 24v Cordless Drill, 1 battery
On the one hand, the 24v drill might have more power, but if you look up the cost of an 18v battery by itself, it might be half the cost of the drill!
In this case, it’s easy to see that the 18v drill is the better deal, because of the extra battery, carrying case, and bits.
The same is true for appliances.
In the area of personal electronics, however, there are so many technical specs that it’s difficult to compare two deals evenly.
2.3. Retailers Manipulate Specs
For personal computing devices, including tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, retailers often manipulate the technical specifications in order to achieve a target shelf price.
For example, to get a $300 shelf price on a laptop, the retailer might order them with very little memory, a low-end CPU, and a low-resolution display.
So a “door buster” $200 tablet or laptop, with a “retail price” of $600, might actually be a cheap piece of crap.
Laptops range in price from $350 to over $2,000 – you have to carefully compare specs to figure out what you’re getting. The same is true for tablets and desktop computers.
Don’t rush out to get those door buster deals – such as a $50 tablet or a $200 laptop, unless you really understand what you’re buying.
The same applies to all “door buster” and “early bird” deals – do your research and make sure you know the real shelf cost of the item before you waste time (and risk injury) trying to fight a crowd, only to find out you didn’t get what you expected.