Getting your hands on the hottest Black Friday technology gifts this year won’t be just a question of stamina.
Sure, you’ll still need to be prepared to swallow your pride and camp out in a parking lot Thursday night.
But you’ll also need a plan.
The web of price-matching offers and discount countdowns is complex enough to make a chess-playing supercomputer beg for a timeout.
Even the experts admit it’s a bit overwhelming.
“What we’re seeing more is retailers are trying to one-up each other,” said Jon Vincent, founder of BlackFriday .info, one of several sites tracking Black Friday discounts. “They’re having earlier sales and really trying to offer special promotions to draw people in.”
Some of this year’s tech deals are straightforward bargains.
Target, for example, will sell a 1080p 40-inch Westinghouse LCD television for $298, which seems to be the consensus pick for best Black Friday gadget price drop.
That TV normally sells for $549.
Snagging that prize will be tough, as Target notes in microscopic print in its flier. It says supplies of that set will be “limited.”
But the deals get a bit ambiguous from there, and cross-checking with other retailers is critical.
For example, Wal-Mart will offer what it says is the “strongest price match guarantee in the market” for Black Friday.
Bring in a competitor’s Black Friday ads and Wal-Mart will match the prices of identical products. Assuming Wal-Mart carries that product.
Wal-Mart won’t match on products available for purchase on walmart.com
However, when it comes to TVs, Amazon.com will match prices for televisions found on several other sites, including walmart.com.
All items over $25 on Amazon’s Black Friday page (amazon.com/blackfriday) are eligible for free shipping and generally don’t include sales tax, which means a price match might actually cost you less if the original site charges for shipping or tax.
And while Amazon is officially only matching prices on TVs on other websites, the online retailer is also doing all it can to match or undercut all Black Friday promotions.
“Like we have done the past few years, we have our hands on every Black Friday circular we can find and are working hard to match or beat prices on the products we have in stock, now through Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” said Amazon spokeswoman Stacey Keller.
FYI, that Westinghouse TV at Target for $298? Well, that same model TV is being sold on Amazon.com for the regular $549 price.
So there’s a chance it could drop to $298 on Amazon, sparing the hassle of huddling on a sidewalk through the night.
No guarantees, though.
So keep refreshing your browser.
Speaking of which, all this week, Amazon is offering “lightning deals” on its Black Friday site with countdown clocks indicating when the deals will end.
Hurry! No time to check prices on other sites!! Just buy it!!!
Deep breaths. Deep. Breaths.
But even if you opt to stay out of the Black Friday madness altogether, don’t be too quick to sneer at those who do jump in.
Vincent at BlackFriday.info said his research found that prices do actually go back up after this week, meaning this really is the best time to get discounts if you’re willing to invest the time and effort.
“Black Friday prices are by far cheaper than prices any other time in the calendar year,” he said.
Not all Black Friday tech discounts are for items you’ll have to wrestle other shoppers to claim.
For example, Dallas-based ATT Inc. is offering a “buy one, get one free” offer on its new line of Windows Phone 7 smart phones.
And Best Buy is offering the high-end Samsung Fascinate phone on Verizon Wireless for just $1 with a new line of service and two-year contract.
Those are all top-notch devices and normally cost as much as $199 with a two-year contract and should be available in larger quantities than items like the Westinghouse television.
Managing all the Black Friday mania is a cottage industry unto itself, with numerous iPhone and Android apps designed to help shoppers track and share deals and tips.
But Vincent said he’s given up trying to hop from store to store on Black Friday.
“It just gets crazy,” he said. “I did it one year, and I made the mistake of browsing the store for a little bit. It was an hour-and-a-half line to check out.”
Vincent is now an Amazon fan.
“That’s where I plan to do all my shopping.”