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Black Friday retailer rip-offs exposed

Written by: Emma Lunn
Nine out of 10 Black Friday ‘deals’ were the same price or cheaper ahead of the event, according to Which?

An investigation by the consumer champion analysed 201 of last year’s Black Friday deals at six major retailers: Amazon, AO, Argos, Currys, John Lewis and Richer Sounds. It looked at the retailers’ prices every day during the six months before and after Black Friday as well as on the day itself.

Which? found that 184 of the products, which included washing machines, soundbars and TVs, were the same price or cheaper in the six months prior to Black Friday. Only 17 of the deals did not fall into this category.

With Black Friday just days away, Which? is advising shoppers to do some research to help them hunt down the minority of deals that really are a bargain.

Rip-off ‘bargains’

Every one of the 32 products Which?’s experts looked at from Curry’s Black Friday sales last year had been an equal price or cheaper in the previous six months.

However, Currys claimed it offers “great prices” all year round. A Currys spokesperson said: “In 2020 over 98% of our Black Friday promoted products were equal to or at their cheapest price from the previous six months and 54% of our products were at their lowest ever price.”

One of the worst individual deals Which? came across was a Zanussi ZWF81441W washing machine at John Lewis that was cheaper than its Black Friday price on 88 different days before the day itself. ‘Discounted’ to £309 on Black Friday, customers could have bought it £60 cheaper at £249 five months before and for £289 within just a month after.

John Lewis claimed that the offers Which? referred to were part of its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ price promise, where the retailer matches high street competitors.

A John Lewis spokesperson said: “On The Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 Bluetooth Waterproof Portable Speaker – our Black Friday promotion started on the 20th November and continued until 12th January – so those days were actually all part of the Black Friday promotional activity.”

Another dubious ‘deal’ identified by Which? was a Bush BRC100DHEB 100cm Dual Fuel Range Cooker sold at Argos for £449.99 (was £499.99) but it was actually the same price 66 times before and 19 times after Black Friday.

Out of the retailers analysed, Richer Sounds had the highest proportion of deals, four out of 14, that were not cheaper or the same price before Black Friday. But Which? described this as “still not hugely impressive”.

Do your homework

Many shoppers don’t do any research before they splash their cash on Black Friday, which leaves them at greater risk of falling for dud deals.

Which? research found that four in 10 (39%) of those buying baby and child products last year did little or no research on price, while for home appliances this was the case for three in 10 (28%) and for tech products it was one in five (18%).

Which?’s survey also found that a lot of shoppers had not read reviews of products before buying them. A third (33%) of those buying baby and child products last Black Friday did little or no research on reviews of the products before buying. For those buying home appliances a quarter (26%) were in this position and for tech products it was one in five (22%).

Which?’s pricing investigation also found that, when looking at the six months after Black Friday, almost all (98.5%) of the products across the six retailers were cheaper or the same price at some point during this period. It says this suggests that in some cases shoppers may be better off biding their time and waiting for the price of a product to fall further.

Ele Clark, Which? retail editor, said: “Our latest investigation has shown that the vast majority of Black Friday deals are not as good as they appear to be, which is why it’s so important to do your research before diving into the sales.

“Take time to identify the products you really want and check that the ‘deal’ you’re seeing represents a genuine saving. That way, you can beat the hype and be confident that you’ll emerge from the Black Friday sales with quality products that will last for years to come – and all for a bargain price.”

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