Don’t buy another television until you read this


Before you run to the store to buy a TV on Black Friday, you need to know about Larry Valverde, who purchased a new set from Best Buy last Black Friday.

“I paid $800 for the TV,” he remembers. “The salesperson told me that if we found a better price in 15 days we could have the difference refunded.”

And wouldn’t you know it, a few days later that same store had the same TV on sale for $200 less.

“When I went to store they said, ‘We don’t give credits for TVs purchased on Black Friday,'” he recalls. Best Buy also wouldn’t refund the $200, as it had promised.

Why? “The salesperson never said the company had any restrictions to make it hard to get a refund or credit,” he says.

And that’s why you absolutely must read this story before Black Friday. If you’re thinking of buying a TV, one of the most frequently purchased items during the frenetic sale period after Thanksgiving, then there are a few things you need to know.

I’m fascinated by the seasonality of prices. When is the best time to buy something? When is the best time to ask for a refund? And, on the flip side, when should you not buy something or ask for your money back? Only a few sophisticated consumers know the answers to these questions. I believe businesses have a vested interest in keeping that information from the rest of us, and it’s time for that to change.

When it comes to TVs, here’s what you need to know: TV models are revamped every year. The worst time to buy a television is in January to May, when new models are being introduced.

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“The best time to buy a late model TV is at the end of the year, especially in November during Black Friday, or right around that time,” says Wheeler Dixon, a film studies professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “That way, you can get a current year model television for a steep discount — sometimes less than half its original price.”

That’s generally true. But “around” is the operative word. Valverde’s problem with Best Buy suggests that some retailers will play price games, setting a higher price on a TV during the traditional sale season and then lowering it as Christmas approaches.


So how do you know if the deal you found is real? You can consult your favorite search engine or a site like Pricewatch, which lists the street prices for consumer electronics.

A recent study by Gap Intelligence and Consumer Reports of 2016 TV models suggests that after new television models are introduced from early March to late May, prices began to drop immediate and predictably. When Black Friday promotions began in November, prices fell in tandem. “We found many sets selling for as little as 50 percent of their original retail price,” the report concluded.

But the Gap analysis also found another buying window just a few weeks before the Super Bowl and running through March. Average TV prices rose as new models entered the market, but prices on the preceding year’s TVs hit their low point as retailers worked to clear out old inventory and create shelf space for new arrivals, according to the report.

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And there’s another consideration in the ebb and flow of supply and demand for used TVs. On secondhand marketplaces like OfferUp, the best time to buy a TV is during the month of July. The average price of TVs on OfferUp during July is $180.

“We can guess that with busy summer travel and planned vacations, OfferUp users are more inclined to price TVs at a lower cost in hopes it will sell quicker,” says Natalie Angelillo, an OfferUp spokeswoman. “The Fourth of July holiday is also a popular time for electronics to go on sale, meaning an opportunity to find a TV at a cheaper rate.”

In other words, there’s no one perfect time to buy a TV. If you want last year’s model, buy around the Fourth of July, when the market is flooded with used sets. If you want a brand new unit, start looking around Black Friday, but don’t fall for the first sale. Remember, retailers may offer even more aggressive discounts as Christmas draws near.

Never, ever buy a TV during the spring. That’s when you’ll find the highest prices for a set. But, as Valverde will tell you, mind the traditional sales, too. You may still find a too-high price or purchase terms that are not favorable to you.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Question for clarification….
    Was the $600 price the exact same model, and was it a “doorbuster” item?
    If the price match was declined, what is wrong with purchasing the TV at $600 and returning the $800 model? Even with a 15% restocking fee, the OP would still come out ahead

  • MarkKelling

    Good idea, but …

    Many of the so called door buster items on sale are not returnable unless they just don’t work. And then they are repaired or replaced and not refunded.

  • Mel65

    There are always exclusions on price matching. I guarantee that somewhere in the fine print on the Black Friday ad there is a disclaimer that the prices shown are not eligible for price matching. Especially because Best Buy and many stores on Black Friday offer sales during specific times: 6 AM to 8 AM, 10 AM to 1 PM EtCetera so even if it WERE eligible for price matching, he would’ve had to have been there at the store during that specific time or the sale price was no longer valid as well. When I worked at Kohl’s, Black Friday sale prices, because they were so transient for lack of a better word, were never eligible for price matching stuff that people had bought two or three weeks before; it would have been a nightmare to process all of those and the lines would’ve been insane.

  • SirWIred

    I’ve had good luck with Citibank’s “Price Rewind”, which they offer on some credit cards. The way it works is that you tell Citibank about an item you bought and upload a copy of the receipt, and if they (or you) find a lower price within 60 days they issue a statement credit (or check, if you want one) for the difference. it doesn’t matter if you bought the item in a retail store and see a lower price on BillyBobsDiscountTVs.com.

    I recently bought a sofa from a retail store (because I’d feel crappy about using up a salesman’s time and then just buying the thing online.) When I got home I immediately started a Price Rewind, and last week they issued me a statement credit for over $300; the “winning” price, which they found on their own, was some random website I’ve never even heard of (beat Amazon by $10 or so.) Claim processing was automatic and only took three days or so.

    There are a couple minor restrictions; they don’t match prices where it’s labeled as “limited quantities”, so no buying a Black Friday Loss-Leader Doorbuster a couple days in advance using the bank as a substitute for standing in line in the freezing cold at 2AM. They also, sensibly, don’t cover items where you need to get a subscription to get the special price (e.g. a “free” iPhone (w/ 2-yr contract.))

    So, you get the best of both worlds; you get the advantages of shopping in an actual store (items on display to look at and try) and shopping online (lower prices.) Win all around. (Oh, and don’t forget the free 1-yr warranty extension most credit cards offer.) Can’t beat all that with a proverbial stick.

  • finance_tony

    I’ve also had great luck with Price Rewind. Unlike other cards that offer price guarantees, as you note, Citi will actually search for you. All my holiday gifts this year are going on that card for that reason only. Last year, tons of things got refunds that I would have never otherwise searched for. For example, I bought a bunch of kids books for $8 or $9 and they found them for $4 somewhere a month later; they gave me credits for those. A $30 toy went on sale for $15 at some online store I never heard of, and I got a credit for that. All in all, I saved over twice the the annual fee of the card…and none of the items were big ticket. It was all small stuff.

  • Byron Cooper

    Best Buy excludes Black Friday from price match. It is on there disclosure form. They do have take things back, for varying periods of time depending on whether you are an elite member.

  • The Original Joe S

    Wurst Bye has been known to sell opened used stuff for more than retail, and not take it back. I won’t patronize them.

  • The Original Joe S

    So the staph toad LIED to him……..

  • The Original Joe S

    But the sales scumbag LIED to the customer………….

  • The Original Joe S

    I once with great glee DEBARRED these dirtbags from doing business with my agency. They broke several Federal and State laws. They refused to turn over evidence to our Systems Security guy until he showed up with two BIG US Marshals with guns. I had our Systems guys BLOCK access in and out for them. Directed contracting to disapprove any purchases from them. Ha ha ha ha!

    I went in once and asked a lazy sales toad for a certain cable.
    “We don’t have that. ”
    “What did I just ask you for?”
    “What?”
    “What did I just ask you for?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “Well then how do you know that you don’t have it?” {DUH?}
    Manager comes over.
    “What seems to be the problem?”
    “The problem seems to be manifold. For starters, this guy is lazy, stupid, slothful, inept, and doesn’t care about serving the customer.” I related the above discourse. “For another, you people are not truthful.”
    Manager: “I’ll look for one for you.”
    Me: “Never mind. I’ll go to Microcenter.” And I have not been back there.
    Of course, if those sales toads were on COMMISSION rather than on Salary, they’d have incentive to get off their lazy bums and work for a living. However, I didn’t tell manager that, because it’s not my job to improve their company. To the contrary, I’d love nothing more than to see them go Tango Uniform…..

  • Byron Cooper

    Or the sales person was poorly trained. I just checked on BestBuy.com. The price match is at the time of sale, not two weeks later.

  • justanotherguy

    I think you’re talking apples and oranges here:

    I absolutely agree that if I were to go to BB, buy an XBox now, and try to get a price match for the reduced price this Friday, I would be abusing the system, technically excluded, and just plain out of luck.

    But BB’s disclaimer (not to mention common sense/morality) only covers the scenario I just described- not the OP’s scenario where he bought something during Black Friday and then the price dropped after. He absolutely should have been refunded the difference.

  • justanotherguy

    External price match is at time of purchase.

    They will price match if their own prices drop during the return period.

    “If we lower our in-store or online price during the return and exchange period, we will match our lower price, upon request.”

  • justanotherguy

    I disagree- the way the exclusion is written, it only excludes advertised prices during Black Friday (actually Thanksgiving Day through the Monday after Thanksgiving)

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