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New Marketing Gimmick – Free Shipping Day

free-shipping-dayBlack Friday, Cyber Monday, behold the new creation of Retail America - Free Shipping Day! Considering my sad experience with these fake “holidays” I tend to think sceptically of all the new tricks the corporate marketing geniuses throw at me. Let’s dig into this latest creation a little bit more.

The idea to start Free Shipping Day came to Luke Knowles, the founder of FreeShipping.org, on December 5 of last year. FreeShippingDay.com launched on December 8, 2008 with 25 participating merchants. The list would then grow to 250+ members by December 17 as the media picked up the story. The site attracted over 250K visitors last year according to this article.

In the concept, the 700+ merchants participating in this year’s Free Shipping Day have to guarantee delivery by Christmas however the free shipping itself doesn’t have to be unconditional. Naturally you will find a lot of offers with strings attached (like minimum purchase required) and unfortunately the website is not clear on what exactly you get.

Free shipping is offered year around!

I just ran a couple of reports for free shipping deals submitted on Buxr and it turns out that almost 60% of all deals in 2009 had zero shipping fee. So you don’t really have to wait till the end of the year, free shipping is offered routinely by merchants like Buy.com, Newegg, Dell and Mertiline. Here are some 2009 stats to prove my point. You can see that the number for Walmart is a bit on the low end however you should consider that most their products qualify for “free ship to store” or the subsidized $0.97 shipping to home.

Total Deals Free Shipping
Deals
Free Shipping
Deals (%)
All Merchants 16471 9638 58.51%
Amazon 1298 736 56.70%
Buy.com 2056 1967 95.67%
Dell 675 579 85.78%
Frys.com 266 106 39.85%
JR.com 170 131 77.06%
Meritline 600 594 99.00%
Newegg 1448 1317 90.95%
Staples 243 148 60.91%
Walmart 461 106 22.99%
Zipzoomfly 130 128 98.46%

So what is Free Shipping Day?

In my view it is yet another marketing trick to make you whip out your wallet and buy more stuff. Does the website offer any useful information? As I mentioned before many of these offers come with minimum requirements and there is no way to see what you really get ahead of time. In addition, many merchants will do guaranteed delivery after tomorrow. These two things in essence render Free Shipping Day useless. Instead, I suggest you look at this list of shipping deadlines and some practical tips on what to buy for a holiday gift if you are a procrastinator.

Related: Free Shipping Day: What’s the Deal? at Time.com

Where to shop this Black Friday?

Last year Black Friday turned sour for me. I am scanning through this year deals picking the best places to shop and here is what I have found so far:

  • Best Buy has published all the deals online. Doorbusters will only be available in stores 5 a.m. on Friday but you can pretty much order anything else.
  • Office Depot offers a preview of what is going to be on sale come tomorrow morning. On-line sale starts 7am and the stores open 6am.
  • Both Staples and OfficeMax are running online sale events but I have not seen anything on what is going to be offered in stores
  • JCPenney mailed out $10 off $50 and $15 off $75 coupons good on Black Friday from 3pm to close.
  • Michaels sent out a few printable coupons. On Friday you get 25% off entire purchase (until noon) or 50% off single regular priced item (after noon). On Saturday the discounts are 20% and 50% respectively.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving sale features 15% off already reduced prices and is good all day Friday and Saturday (Macy’s cardholders only) plus on Firday till 1pm you get $10 off $25
  • Aeropostale has an amazing sale going on with through December 1st with 50% to 70% off everything on the website (excluding clearance items)
  • Perry Ellis sent out an email with a 30% off store wide coupon good till November 30.

The merchants that don’t have brick & mortar stores are keeping up as well:

  • Amazon offers a slew of deals at their Black Friday Deals page.
  • NewEgg has a dedicated page for Black Friday deals, all available for sale now
  • Shop4tech has just launched the hottest promotion I have ever seen - 18% off sitewide + free digital camera kit with orders $40 or more, now till December 1

Overall discounts are much better this year around. Will see what happens tomorrow. Where do you shop this Black Friday? Please share your tips in the comments!

Stores publish Black Friday ads

Several stores have published online their Black Friday circular. Here is a summary that I borrowed from this FatWallet thread:

As I already mentioned, I plan to spend this Friday home with my family. If you do go though, please let me know what I have missed.

Black Friday 2007 shopping sites

I have received a few emails lately with people asking if I plan to shop this Black Friday. From my last year experience my impression was and still is that Black Friday shopping is a big scam. You of course are entitled to your own opinion and just in case it is different from mine, here is a list of websites that cover the event extensively this year.

Amazon has a dedicated Black Friday page where they promise to offer hourly deals all Friday long. Also, make sure to visit Amazon Vote page to vote on several amazing deals Amazon will offer starting November 21, 2007. There is no guarantee that you end up buying the stuff but considering the effort Amazon Vote is the true bargain compared to these other Black Friday deals,… unless of course the idea of standing in line at 4 am is what truly appeals you. ;-)

Black Friday shopping – the biggest scam

Black Friday ShoppingIt is Friday 10:30am, I just got back from my shopping trip and these are my impressions. Last night I was speculating the idea of standing in line for one of the early bird specials (or door busters as they call them). Thanks God I didn't go anywhere. This SlickDeals thread describes 200+ people long lines by Best Buy at 10pm last Thursday.

I woke up at 7am today and Best Buy was my first stop. This is absolutely wrong place to be on Friday. The line to check out was stretching like a snake all the way to the back wall of the store. I estimate there were around 500 people in that line. I took a stroll and to even get to the laptops section there were around 50 people waiting. I wasn't going to buy anything so I just snack in and what I saw were usual prices -- just what you see every day. From my conversation with a sales man I learned that the line to get to the store started to form around 6pm the day before.

Circuit City was pretty much the same story. At 8am I didn't find any items on sale and the line to check out was as long as that to buy bread in Soviet times (yeah, I did have chance to stand in those lines). Office Depot and Office Max were more pleasant experience. Both still had some specials on the shelves at 8:30am when I got there and the shoppers didn't stamp on my feet. :-) I left with a few CD/DVD wallets $1.99 each. The 300GB external Maxtor Hard Drive for $99.99 was also very tempting.

My last stop was Staples. They didn't have crowds in the store but all the in-store specials were already claimed (people in line got tickets and had time until 10am to exchanged them for their items). I spoke to a guy at the check out who was paying for a couple of 200GB Maxtor Hard Drives $19.99 after rebate. He said he had to come to the store by 3:30am to get on the deal. From his words to get the $399 Compaq laptop I would have to come by 10pm the night before. As I was leaving around 9:30am another line started to form for a chance to buy the unclaimed in-stores specials. Lines, lines, lines...

My overall impression today is that Black Friday shopping is a big scam. Stores publish very limited quantity hot deals to lure in shoppers and those deals are all sold out instantaneously. If you come at the opening or any time during the day (as most normal people do) you have missed on 90% of them. This is how it works for the stores selling computers and electronics anyway.

Was your Black Friday shopping experience different? Please share it with me in your comments.




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