The New Black Friday, Or How I wasted Too Much Time on Amazon’s App

We spent this Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. It was great fun with family. I barely left the house the whole time we were there, and I never left the property. But I still got some Black Friday shopping in.  Since the break in I have been in the market for a few replacements. And I hoped to luck into a great TV deal. My extended family doesn’t live close to a major retailer, and I was not planning on driving and camping out for any Black Friday deal. I didn’t need to. I did all my shopping online.

This year more than ever before retailers were offering major discounts for online purchases. I woke up Thanksgiving morning and placed an order with Best Buy, to be delivered next week. This item wasn’t available for my Early Access sale last Monday, but was a “doorbuster” for Thursday/Friday and available online. As with the early access sale, not every doorbuster was online. Just a few.

The online retailer Amazon changed up their Black Friday approach. This year they threw out “lightning” deals seemingly at random. They released a short list of what would be available, and a time period for which those deals would appear over the next several days. One deal, a 50″ Led 1080p TV for $150 was only going to be available through the Amazon App. There were several deals that only people who used the app would see. And almost every deal was made available to Amazon prime members 30 minutes earlier than to the general public.

This strategy of randomly dropping new deals online kept bringing shoppers back again and again, throughout the day. Sometimes the app would tell you what was coming. You could “watch” the deal, and get a notification when it was about to start. Other times the deal just popped up. The hotter the deal, the more likely it would show up without notice.

Catching one of these hot lightning deals was a matter of luck.I actually had the $75 32″ TV in my cart, and decided not to buy it. I saw the “waitlist” for their 55″ 4K TV deal, right before it was filled. If you missed the initial offering, you could join a waitlist. If a shopper failed to check out within 15 minutes of placing the item in their cart, it would be offered to the next person on the waitlist. You would have just a few minutes to make your own purchase, or it would drop to the next person. Many of these deals would be gone and the waitlist filled within seconds of showing up on the app.

Because we had our TVs stolen and have not replaced them yet, I was hoping to snag a TV deal. I really wanted the cheap 50″ deal. Not because it would have been a great TV, but because even a “cheap” TV of that size is a good deal for $150. I confess I spent way too much time waiting for that deal to drop. Not knowing when meant that I would have to be lucky. It’s not quite as bad as waiting in line for days, but it was actually very annoying to keep checking the app. In between activities with my family I was pulling up Amazon and scrolling through the deals.

That’s what they wanted people to do. They wanted us to keep looking and keep checking, in hopes that we would see other things we wanted, and buy those as well. That worked for a couple of hours. My kids snagged a game they had been wanting for a very cheap price. I ordered a microSD card at 80% off the normal price. But very soon I just didn’t care. When the 50″ TV deal went live I just missed seeing it, and it wasn’t until 20 minutes later that I knew it had appeared. I assume it was available for just a few moments before it had sold out.

I had begun to wonder if it would ever appear. As did others from what I read online. This new random drop tactic was not a huge hit with online shoppers, from what I could see in he forums and comments I read. I won’t ever do it again. My time is worth more than any deal like this. This felt too much like work. I am deleting the app from my phone. I only got it to see if I could get this one TV deal.

The method that Amazon, and others, should use if they want me to keep coming back to their website is to post what will be for sale, and when the deal goes live. Both of my purchases from Amazon this year were on deals like this. I knew what was coming up for sale, and when I should be ready to buy. Both were available at different times, and both times I looked at other items for sale while I was there buying my “watched” deals. Hopefully more retailers will offer their deals online.

Everyone wants a deal. Some people will camp out for days to get one. Others will spend too much time checking an app for a sale. I’ve never camped out, and I won’t check the app like this again next year. I will be happy to buy things online as long as I know what is for sale and when the deal begins.

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