How Black Friday deals are sometimes just a marketing scam

A new report by Vancity Credit Union describes tactics retailers use to motivate sales, including inflating original prices and creating a false sense of urgency.

A new report by Vancity Credit Union suggests that some Black Friday deals are 'white lies'

American post-Thanksgiving retail ritual has leaked across the border into Canada, but isn't at quite the same level of hype 2:19

As more Canadian retailers are jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon, you might be asking: are these sales really saving me money or are they just a marking ploy to get me to buy more?

That's a question being asked, and partly answered, in a new report published by Vancouver City Savings Credit Union.

The report, titled White Lies on Black Friday, describes tactics some retailers use to motivate sales, including inflating original prices and creating a false sense of urgency, and consumers' perceptions of the mass retail event.

Mohamed Ladak, vice-president of payment solutions for Vancity, told Gloria Macarenko on the CBC Radio program On The Coast that shoppers should understand product trends when shopping around Black Friday, because deals may not be as good as they seem.

"People feel that they're getting a bargain, or getting a deal on Black Friday. We're not saying there aren't deals to be had out there, there definitely are, but what we're saying is the best thing to do is for everyone to do their research and make sure they're looking at the final price of what they're paying for that product, rather than the perceived savings," he said.

Ladak said some retailers increase prices over the week leading up to Black Friday, and only then apply a discount.

"A more transparent approach would be just to promote the price rather than the discount," he said.

The report also warns about "door crashers," where retailers try to get people in the store by offering huge discounts on products.

Shoppers look at the last two KitchenAid mixers at a Sears store. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

"Sometimes they're limited in quantity," Ladak said.

Boxing Day sales are a little bit different because retailers are looking to get rid of existing inventory, and may actually have better discounts, Ladak said.

Ladak's final piece of advice is simply "do the research."

"Find the best price, find the right product, use the deal website and apps out there, bring a smartphone with you, and get some advice from knowledgeable friends," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.