Thursday, 24 November 2016

Bagging A Bargain

Bagging A Bargain

It’s time to whip out the credit card: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are back

If you have snapped up this copy of Micro Mart on the day it made it to the shops – that is, 24th November 2016 – then let us be the first to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. It may seem odd for us to do that given we don’t actually celebrate this particular American festival here in the UK. But it’s getting to the point where it’s just about the only US event that we don’t mark. Not yet, in any case.

Just as Halloween has arguably become even more popular than Bonfire Night and prom nights have fast become a staple of our children’s schooldays, we’re being influenced more and more by our cousins from across the pond. So while we don’t have Thanksgiving, we do have its aftermath. And that means 25th November 2016 is more than just a normal “Yes, it’s nearly the weekend” Friday. Instead, it’s Black Friday and a chance for you to open your wallet and go crazy.

There’s some confusion over how this day came to be an annual event in the UK, but we do recall seeing it in 2010. That’s when Amazon – prompted by complaints from British shoppers that folk in the US were able to get cheaper goods on this day – began to offer a day of bargains for us too. Black Friday arguably took off on the high street in 2013 when Walmart-owned Asda kickstarted its own Black Friday sales, the result of which was a bumper 2014 when virtually every retailer got stuck in.

As you’ll probably recall, that was the year of the TV wars, when the newspapers were filled to the brim with tales of shoppers scrapping in the aisles over cheap 40” Polaroid televisions and 50” models made by Blaupunkt, which were selling for £249. It didn’t seem to matter that neither manufacturer is any sort of force in the TV market (although do watch out for the impressive, albeit HDR-less, 4K Polaroid P49D600). People queued for hours to get them and later flooded eBay in the hope of making a few quid.

Such scenes were repeated last year, and it even led to calls by MPs to ban the event. Yet there were some bargains to be had. Retailer KRCS slashed £345 off iMacs, snapped £305 from MacBook Pros and eased pockets by £211 on Mac Minis. There were iPads with 8% discounts, Xbox One consoles going for £229, Amazon Fire tablets down by a third and £600 off a 60” Samsung 4K television.

So with the event upon us once more, should we be taking any notice? Of course! For us tech-heads, there is a great opportunity to get some money off a nice piece of kit as long as you’re savvy and only go for the items that you would have bought anyway. The key is knowing where to look and when and not going too mad in buying stuff you don’t actually need. Where should you be looking, though?

Well, you may have already noticed that Amazon has spent the last week-and-a-half flogging an extended Black Friday, but there’s a still good chance to grab a bargain from this particular online retailer You may still be able to get the wellreviewed LG 43UH603V 43” 4K smart television for £399, down by £200, and you may well snatch up the superb Amazon Echo, which normally sells for £149 but was, at launch for Prime customers, going for £100. Any replication of that and you should be 1-clicking like fury.

Argos has also been cutting prices since 18th November, while Tesco began on the 21st. But it’ll intensify tomorrow (again, as long as you’re reading this on Thursday) so keep an eye out and you should be able to grab a bargain. After all, the usual stalwarts are getting involved including PC World, GAME, John Lewis, Debenhams and Selfridges and they have a lot of stock to shift. And just like in the UK, Black Friday is heralding the start of the Christmas shopping rush, so it’d be silly not to at least have a peek at the possibilities.

Click, Click, Click

Last year, Black Friday saw £1.1 billion of sales, with revenue over the entire weekend topping £3.3 billion. That made it a mammoth success for retailers, and it was up 35% on the year before, ensuring the day became a big deal for UK stores. With that in mind, the Black Friday weekend this year will be chock full of more enticing deals than ever. But what sort of things should you be expecting this time around?

First of all, if you’re hoping to make a beeline for the Apple stores, forget it. The company itself is unlikely to be slashing its prices. In actual fact, it recently raised the cost of buying its iMacs by more than £300, so bargains and Apple don’t quite fit that well in the same sentence in these post-Brexit days. So to get the discounts on Apple products, you need to head to retailers such as Currys, Argos and Amazon.

At the time of writing, Argos was flogging the 38mm stainless steel cased Apple Watch for £399, down from £479, and it has the iPad Air 2 128GB for £40 notes less at £469. These deals may have even got better so if you’re in the market for either, take a look by going to Currys’ special webpage:

Indeed, Currys, Argos and Amazon are good places for tech in general, as are John Lewis and Carphone Warehouse. In fact, you should snap up an Amazon Prime 30-day trial for free if you want to get your items delivered the next day, and this will also allow you to benefit from the online retailer’s Lightning Deals. It’s just a shame that you’ll have missed out on getting Prime for £20 less (£59) since that short-lived offer ended on 18th November.

If you don’t fancy Amazon, Tesco will be a good port of call. Last year, it seemed to promote technology deals very heavily, and there were examples of laptops that were down by as much as two thirds. Likewise, it was possible to great far cheaper mobile phones and headphones, including those made by top-end manufacturer Beats. There’s no need to rush either because Tesco’s deals are set to run until 1st December, and you can go straight to the potential bargains online without having to elbow your way around the stores by heading

Likewise, Sainsbury’s, which had Black Friday deals right up until the Sunday last year, looks set to do the same again. Don’t bother going to Asda, which pulled out of Black Friday last year and isn’t taking part this time around but do think outside the box. It’s worth having a good look at Toys ‘R’ Us, for instance; you may not want a Barbie doll or a Hornby train set (or maybe you do), but it’s a great retailer for games, consoles and tablets. You may even be able to get some offbeat purchases a bit cheaper – perhaps a ChiP Robot Dog or a UBTech Alpha 1S Humanoid. Just keep watching, and there will always be a chance something you really want will be coming up.

A Second Chance

Don’t worry if you completely miss Black Friday, though. Whether you’ve fallen ill on the big day, failed to see the fuss or simply got hold of this magazine after the weekend, there is another way of getting hold of some bargains. It’s called Cyber Monday, and it’s set to take place on 28th November. What’s more, if last year is anything to go by, it’s set to be just as big as Black Friday. Cyber Monday in 2015 saw tills ring to the tune of £968 million – some £40 million more than expected. Will it top £1 billion this time around? We reckon so.

Cyber Monday originated in America in 2005 and it refers to the Monday after Thanksgiving. The extra day allows retailers another boost, and it really works. For that  reason, some retailers will be holding back some of their most special offers for this day so don’t max out your credit card completely beforehand, because you may find there’s something you want on this day too. There’s also another day called Green Tuesday, which directly follows the capitalist mayhem. It emphasises organic and environmentally friendly items and encourages people to spend locally. Frustratingly, though, it’s one that hasn’t made it over to the UK yet.

But by then, you’re probably going to be ready to flop under the sheer exhaustion of it all. Shopping with such intensity is not for the faint hearted. So why do we do it? Well, it may surprise you to learn that we may not be engaging in Black Friday purely to save some cash and bag a bargain. Troy Campbell, the assistant professor of marketing at the University of Oregon, says it is like a holiday, and he compares it to, say, the opening of a Star Wars film or the release of a new Call of Duty game.

In that sense, it’s about community – of everyone going out together to shop and socialise. It can end up in fisticuffs, because Black Friday is also competitive. Some people thrive on the crowds and the sense that they can ‘win’ at this game of finding stuff at the cheapest possible price. Other experts sense that it is primal. Kate Nightingale, a customer psychologist, told the BBC last year that the sales worked on the basis of scarcity – of selling a limited number of items so that they seem more valuable (look at the scramble for the £50 new Nintendo NES consoles, which are changing hands for £130 or so on eBay for proof of that).

This is why some Black Friday deals are for limited times only and why you shouldn’t hover too much if you really want something. The excitement when a bargain appears or when the doors to a store are flung open is too much for some, and they’ll fill their trollies and online baskets. This causes problems of its own, though. The adrenaline and emotion of Black Friday could push you into buying something you don’t want or need. There isn’t any harm in walking away from something you’re unsure of.

At the same time, don’t be defeatist. By making sure you read our preparation checklist and by looking carefully at your budget, you can have a great Black Friday, a stunning Cyber Monday and still have more than enough festive cheer and money to see you through to a bumper Christmas and all of the fun, frolics and booze that brings. Why not let us know which bargains you managed to grab by heading to our forum?

How To Bag A Black Friday Bargain

It can pay to be prepared over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. Here are our tips for a successful bargain hunt.

Start following the retailers
We’re not suggesting you start chasing shop managers around their stores or turning up at their front doors unannounced. Rather, get on Twitter and Facebook and start following stores such as Amazon, Tesco, PC World, Game and so on. They will flag up the best bargains to be had from their stores to ramp up the excitement, and there may be something you’d like.

Be on the alert
At the same time, set up a new, throwaway email address and sign up for email newsletters from the stores you reckon will be useful to you. Retailers are sending emails listing some of their discounts, and they’re also promoting time-limited sales of some items. There may be a reason why they’re promoting a certain product, though, so be keenly aware of that.

Make a list
A bargain is only really a bargain if you actually want the item that is being offered to you in the first place. There’s no point in going for that cheap 4K television if you had previously vowed not to get one because the HD set you already have is perfectly fine. That’s just spending money for spending’s sake. So earmark the stuff you really need but haven’t got round to buying.

Set a budget
Don’t go way over what you can afford or what you want to pay for something just because it’s on offer or is going for a price that, at first glance, seems too difficult to resist. Look at your bank account, check that credit card and think, ‘Okay, what do I really want to spend and will I regret going well over?’ Buyer’s remorse is a slippery slope to eBay.

Bookmark Black Friday pages
Some websites will have Black Friday pages already set up, so look for them and ensure they’re in your bookmarks. Then open a few tabs on your browser and activate each site so you can keep an eye on any incoming cheap deals. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but even if you save £100 or so on something you want, it could be worth the effort.

Get up early
Don’t dawdle. Whether you’re intending to head down to the shops in person or go online, then you should try to get in as quick as you can. There may be queues if you hit the physical stores, but you’re more likely to grab limited offers if you’re the early worm. Some of the bigger ticket items will go fast, although online stores will tend to stagger their offers to keep the interest going.

Keep your phone handy
If you’re out and about, then have your phone with you. Do a quick check on an item just in case you can actually find it cheaper elsewhere, and have a scan at some reviews if you are unsure. You can use sites such as to check price histories and there are lots of forums such at HotUKDeals and, which can point you to the shops where there are bargains galore.

Know what you’re buying
As you’ll know, manufacturers bring out various versions of their tech, and they also replace products on a regular basis. This means you’ll want to double check that the item you are buying really is what you think it is. Is that laptop you’re after the one with the processor you need and the right amount of RAM? Is the iPad the latest or an older, slower model.

Check the cashback sites
It is very likely that you’ll be able to get a little bit extra off your shopping if you go through a cashback site such as TopCashback and Quidco. You don’t get the discount immediately but once a sale is successful, a sum of cash should end up sitting nicely in your account ready. Look for promo codes and vouchers as well for the maximum savings.

Forget the warranties
For the most part, don’t bother with the warranties that are being offered to you. They can be costly and in many cases they are not worth the outlay. According to, you are better off looking for multiple-item policies if you do want the peace of mind of a warranty, but remember that you still have consumer rights if you don’t take one out. You can also tell a salesman that you will take a warranty if they discount further – then cancel it within 45 days.

Price Matching On Black Friday

Whether or not you’ll be able to price match on Black Friday depends on the store. We would expect John Lewis to do this, since it says it is never knowingly undersold, but this should also mean that the prices on its site will be at the same price as those on its competitor’s website. If in doubt, check with customer services or the manager if you are in the store.

Watch Out For The Sales Crash

The sheer volume of shoppers flocking to websites to snap up Black Friday bargains will inevitably cause problems. It has done in the past and we just know it will happen again (and we’re not being pessimistic – consider how ticketing websites often collapse under the weight of demand even though the developers must be aware it could happen).

Tesco, Currys, GAME and Argos have suffered website crashes and while they get themselves up and running quickly enough, it can be very frustrating, particularly if it happens during the checkout process. There have also been issues of prices fluctuating from the moment you select an item to the time you go to pay. This means you have to be extra alert.

The positive to all of this, though, is that timelimited deals on many websites are set to be less common this time around. That way, the retailers are able to prevent bottlenecks with too many shoppers looking to grab the same item at the same time, producing serious outages. It is also the reason some are extending Black Friday over a few days, spreading the burden.

As you’d expect, when websites go down, Twitter is ablaze with frustration and threats of never shopping with a retailer ever again. Tempers can fray, but remember, it’s not the end of the world, and the bargains will – and inevitably do – roll around at other times of the year during specific sales and end-of-line clearances.

Can You Expect A Christmas Delivery?

You’d hope that your items will be delivered in time for Christmas. Online retailers are learning from their mistakes year after year so they should be getting sharper. The delivery companies will also be making strong plans, taking on thousands of extra staff to cope with the annual increase in demand.

But there have been some mishaps. Last year, Argos suffered many customer complaints when deliveries were delayed or even cancelled, leading to lengthy waits on the phone to its call centre, all thanks to the increased numbers buying from the retailer on Black Friday. According to reports, there had been 18 orders every second, and 90% of them wanted Fast Track same-day delivery.

Common sense would tell you that unless there are firm contingency plans, this would be impossible without running the poor (and often poorly paid) delivery drivers off their feet. But when you’ve placed an order, there is an expectation that it will arrive, and it would be unforgivable if you buy something over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend and the item misses a pre-Christmas delivery (unless of course, you’re made aware of that before your order is placed).