Black Friday 2011: Are There Alternatives to Big Deal Hunting?

Thanks to Black Friday, Thanksgiving traditions have expanded from turkey, gravy and Cowboys football to include camping out at the local big box store all in the name of a deal.

Each year, stores such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart offer customers the chance to finish their holiday shopping in one fell swoop. From Blu-ray DVDs for less than $8 to a Trim A Home 6 foot Christmas tree for $19.99, there are steals to be had for any budget. But if you ask any real deal hunter, the true coup de grace comes in securing an item that has four magical words located underneath it in the store's Black Friday advertisement.

“Minimum 5 per store.”

Nicknamed “doorbusters,” these deals may include big screen televisions, laptops and video game systems such as Xbox 360. With limited availability, customers are given vouchers allowing them to purchase the hottest items after waiting endless hours for the store to open. While Black Friday prices can be marked down more than 75 percent and allow some consumers to purchase products they normally couldn't afford, the race from the Thanksgiving dinner table to the sidewalk outside Target raises many questions.

After releasing a portion of its Black Friday advertisement, Best Buy's biggest doorbuster might be considered its Sharp 42" LCD 1080p HDTV – normally listed at $800 – but can be had for $200 if you are willing to wait in line. A quick look at Best Buy's current pricing shows that $200 buys a television half the size of the Sharp model on any non-Black Friday shopping day. But is it really worth it?

Traditionally, the wait for stores to open for Black Friday looks like a snake-shaped line of extremely tired yet eager customers looking to pass the time in any fashion possible. For one Black Friday website, tips for the most celebrated shopping day of the year go beyond pricing to include games shoppers can play while waiting in line. Cyber Monday Specials suggests playing games like “Warm The Hands” and “I Went To Wal-Mart” where players need to name a product sold at Wal-Mart and the next person has to add another product to the list and so on until someone makes a mistake. In that case, that person would go to the end of the line.

But what happens if customers start getting bored with Black Friday games and pull out their smartphone to perform a Google search on the products on their wish list? According to Alan Ng of Product Reviews, the Sharp television in question may not be the dream product consumers are expecting come Black Friday. Ng reported that there is no official information available about the television on Sharp's website. This has led to speculation that Best Buy is the exclusive seller of the television – one that may be refurbished and using technology from 2006.

Regardless of whether customers decide to purchase the Sharp television, the International Council on Shopping Centers predicts holiday sales to increase by three percent. This would mark the second straight year of holiday sales increasing.