Warnings and Wisdom for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I thought that there is nothing better I could do for you today than give you some advice for Cyber Monday, as you are snowed in and probably doing some online shopping. I also want to reflect on my Black Friday experience. I’m sure many stores will turn this week into a Cyber Week, so be on the lookout for deals.

Warnings and Wisdom: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

I want to give you my thoughts on these shopping holidays as they pertain to the items we care about — computers and items related to personal technology. As one of your favorite tech commentators, I went out on Black Friday to scope out the scene and report back. I will include photographic evidence below to make this a newsletter format, but just in case the five photos do not show up embedded with the text, I will reference them as BlackFriday1 through BlackFriday5 and then you can just click on them as you see fit. Various e-mail apps and programs display photos differently.

Here’s what you need to know at the dawn of Cyber Monday…
-Amazon will have a lot of deals, as will BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Walmart.com, and many other places you regularly shop at (in store and online. ) These deals may last all day or for a few days, but they could expire hourly or within a few hours. Do your homework if needed, but don’t second guess yourself. You may lose out on a great deal.
-Some Black / Cyber sales are junk, old, or otherwise inferior, especially items that seem like serious bargains. That can be totally fine for you. For example, there is nothing wrong with last year’s version of a Dell Optiplex or Latitude computer. Be leery of a product that seems tailor made for the big sale. It may not be what it seems. You may see a lot of unsold “base models” put out there.
-Google for reviews or look on the store itself. Wirecutter is a great review site, as are CNET, iMore, and other well established tech sites. There may be fake reviews on Amazon, but if a product has hundreds or thousands of reviews — they can’t all be fake!
-Be a little skeptical of cell phone carrier’s seemingly massive offers like $300 off a new iPhone either for an existing customer, adding a line or switching companies. These deals almost always entail “bill credits”. So for example, if you get $300 off a new iPhone, this means $12.50 a month for 24 months. It still amounts to $300 but it doesn’t feel like $300 off the phone. Seems like more of a service discount right? If it makes a difference to you, Costco sells phones and service for the major carriers and I’ve heard that they take the discount off the phone up front or send you some type of a prepaid credit card in the mail. That is more of a true deal.

Nerd on the Street Report — here is what I found by going to one of the nation’s largest sellers of electronics — Walmart — on Thanksgiving evening as the Black Friday deals were in full effect. This was not a Super WalMart which may have influenced what I saw, but none the less I was very disappointed with these “doorbuster” items for the most part. I think most of these offers were designed to fleece the sheeple and just get them to buy something.

First, we have a 58 inch ONN brand TV (Picture: BlackFriday1). That seems like a odd size to me. Most TV’s in that range are 55 or 65 inches. What is ONN? I didn’t know. It is a Wal-Mart, in-house brand. It was priced at $198. Wow! Wow! Sadly, this TV looked like it was tailor made for Black Friday. It does not have HDR – high dynamic range. TV’s that you buy nowadays should be 4K and have HDR. I saw plenty of models in the high 200’s – 300 to 400 range that had this important feature. This 58- incher did not turn me ONN.

Next I came across a $28 ONN tablet (BlackFriday2). Seems like WalMart was really promoting their own brands for Black Friday. If your looking for a cheap tablet with basic browsing, e-mailing, and Amazon Kindle book reading capability — get a Kindle Fire. If you want something just a little better, the standard iPad is discounted to $229-249 for Cyber Monday. The $28 tablet was 7 inches, which is pretty small by today’s standards. It did run a nearly pure version of Android 9, but it had a VERY slow processor and on top of this — had a 4 hour advertised battery life. Kids (likely the target customer) will be very disappointed. Guess you will have to go back to sing alongs on those long car rides. Raffi, anyone?

There were some printers that were just screaming BUY ME. A $19 Canon multi-function model caught my eye (BlackFriday3). While it does copy and scan, this model would only be appropriate for very light print volumes. The ink is going to cost a fortune! Keep in mind the rule with ink jet printers — you have to use them or they can go stale. You should be printing SOMETHING at least every 2 weeks. You know I am a fan of Black and White laser printers. WalMart did not disappoint. They had what was advertised as the world’s smallest laser printer for $59, the HP M15a (BlackFriday4). Not bad! Would be good for travelers. This model seems like a WalMart exclusive. It is just a printer. And the ink costs more per page than better laser printers, but if black and white printing is your thing, this model might be OK if you are directly connected to the computer (no WIFI).

Finally, I came across a Roku SE (BlackFriday5) streaming media player. We are all becoming streamers. Whether you use a live TV streaming service like Hulu Live TV or You Tube TV, or just supplement with services like Netflix, regular Hulu and Amazon Prime video — you are part of a growing trend that’s not going away. As I have said before, Roku is one of my favorite players. Not everyone needs to pay $150+ for an Apple TV. I like the Roku over the Amazon Fire devices because who knows when Amazon will get into another fight with Google and block You Tube for a year. The Roku SE is the most inferior of Roku players and does not support 4K TV’s. It is just a re-badged older Roku. I would much rather see you get a Roku Premiere or Roku Streaming Stick + (reg. $40-50), which will support your 4K TV now and in the future.