Holiday shopping: fun or fatality?

Heath Verhasselt

Over break, I did what some could consider to be a suicide mission: I worked at a retail store. And not only did I work at a retail store during one of the biggest shopping days of the year, but I worked at a Target, and not just a Target but a SuperTarget, selling electronics.

I sold more Nintendo games, TVs and iPods than I could ever pay for myself — at least this year. Why would I do this, am I crazy? Probably, but I think it’s fun.

Shopping can be fun; after all why would close to 37,000 people go out to Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines for the midnight Black Friday sales? Because they wanted to save money, which of course is what we all want to do. However, I then ask, at what cost? What all are you sacrificing to get that good deal?

More than likely you’ll be giving up a lot. Not only do you have to wake up early to fend off the other shoppers who are also after your $3 toaster at Walmart, but you end up with exactly what you get: a piece of garbage $3 toaster.

Same goes for electronics. Black Friday lines literally revolve around getting a good deal on a new TV or computer. Let’s take a look at Walmart’s Black Friday ad. Had you lined up early enough, usually around 2 a.m. for a 5 a.m. opening, you could have purchased an Emerson 42-inch HDTV for $398 — while supplies last, no rainchecks.

Same at Best Buy, the busiest store you can go to on Black Friday. There you could have gotten a 42-inch Insignia branded HDTV for $369 — minimum four per store, no rainchecks.

Ever hear of either of those brands? Of course not. Those are the “house” brands for those stores. You know how you can buy generic groceries? The same applies to TVs and other electronics. But the difference is, instead of getting food or paper towels that are essentially staple goods, you get piece of electronic equipment that will probably last the span of three months before it breaks down on you.

Now you might be saying, “I’ve bought an off-brand TV and it worked fine!” and to that I say, good for you, but it almost never works that way. You get what you pay for when it comes to electronics. And you might even say that I’m pinning this on Walmart and Best Buy, but they all do it: Target, Tiger Direct, Kmart. Low prices to get you into the store, a broken TV a few months later.

But what can you do? Not everyone can shell out the extra $300 to $400 premium for a Samsung LED 120hz 1080p HDTV. And to that I say, research it.

Research things before you buy them. As a general rule of thumb, for anything costing more than $100 you should at least take five to 10 minutes to research before you buy. Five minutes of looking at TVs and you can see that Samsung, Vizio or Sony are generally decent brands. Five minutes looking at cameras you’ll brush aside the Kodak and Olympus cameras and go for the Nikon or the Canon.

It’s just a matter of doing a few Google searches. So I say, ditch the lines, and stay at home this holiday season. Find the item you really want to buy, and wait for a sale that doesn’t involve you risking your life over. The deals are out there, you just have to make the right decision.