Online Deals For Holiday Shopping: Buyer Beware

by Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times

ccardcomputerOn Black Friday, Kohl’s offered what looked like a terrific deal on the Jawbone UP24, a stylish fitness-tracking band the retailer ordinarily sells for $130.

In honor of that hallowed national day of shopping, Kohl’s was cutting its price on the UP24 by more than 20 percent, to just $100. The Kohl’s price cut was heralded by dozens of websites that compile supposedly stupendous holiday discounts. Wired even included Kohl’s UP24 sale in its list of Top 50 Black Friday deals.

There was just one problem: Kohl’s price — as is surprisingly typical — wasn’t much of a deal at all.

Every year, the holiday shopping season is hit by a blizzard of apparent discounts. From the week before Thanksgiving to the end of the year, retailers and manufacturers pump out tens of thousands of so-called deals — limited-time, often extravagant offers that they suggest you’d be a fool to miss.

Searching for deals online has become an increasingly popular way to navigate the shopping season, according to Google’s data, and this year interest has been higher than ever. But the people who study the holiday discount bonanza say that our knee-jerk reverence for these discounts is misplaced.

A Black Friday deal from Kohl’s offered the Jawbone UP24 fitness-tracking band for $100, but Best Buy and Amazon were selling it for as little as $80.

“What surprised me was how many of these deals were bad,” said Jacqui Cheng, the editor in chief of the product review sites The Wirecutter and The Sweethome.

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