Depending on your perspective, Black Friday has become a veritable holiday unto itself: a paean to American capitalism and the joy of deal hunting. Or, you know, a cultural dark spot that calls into question our country's materialism and conscience. As avid bargain hunters ourselves, we're split, and we figure if you absolutely, positively, have to brave the cold and chaos come this Friday, then you'd better make sure you come home with some bonafide deals. We consulted retail maven Tyler Thoreson, Gilt Groupe's VP of men's editorial and creative, who reminded us that, as a whole, the bargain-hunting process "is supposed to be fun. There are amazing deals to be had – you just need to know what you're doing." Here are his insider's tips on how to prep ahead of time, how to suss out deals on the fly, and how to prevent buyer's remorse on the big day.
Do your homework.
Especially if you're in the market for a big-ticket item – a pair of skis, camping gear, or the Black Friday staple, a big-screen TV – know the market before you set out. You'll be better prepared to avoid seductive deals that turn out to be just low priced but low-rated gear. "There's a reason stores are trying to get rid of things at such discounts," Thoreson point out. "Don't get fooled into buying something that is essentially a phony deal." Yes, some items are loss leaders that retailers use to lure you inside, but many stores use Black Friday as an opportunity to liquidate outdated merchandise and last year's technology – and they generously sprinkle these "bargains" in among the loss leaders, making it harder to distinguish a steal from a rip-off. Before you set out, have a shopping list ready of items you want, and spend a couple of minutes checking ratings on reviews sites (including mensjournal.com) or even Amazon to see whether models on sale are worth pursuing. And if you find yourself at Walmart, keep in mind there's a reason that laptop is going for $178.
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