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The Skinny On Black Friday Deals

By Eli Jones on December 3, 2015

Cyber Monday

Each year when Thanksgiving rolls around, retailers work hard to keep consumers less focused on Thanksgiving plans and more on Black Friday deals. This year was no different and with more than 151 million people shopping either in stores and/or online over the weekend, retailers’ advertisements and promotions worked well. A recent NRF survey found the average spending per person over Black Friday and the Thanksgiving weekend totaled $299.60*, with an average of $229.56 specifically going towards holiday gifts.

But are Black Friday deals actually worth consumers’ money and time spent away from their families? How are retailers able to justify these extreme discounts?

How Retailers Capitalize On Customer Confusion On Black Friday

Unfortunately for shoppers, big savings doesn’t always mean good quality. Many retailers have started offering unbelievable deals on so-called “limited edition” products that are not available on days other than Black Friday. According to a 2014 report by NBC, these special products, which are more commonly referred to as “derivative” products, are created in one of two ways:

  1. A manufacturer may simply give an existing product a new model number, or

  2. They may make changes to the current model in order to hit a lower price point (ex. a TV could have one less HDMI input)

Because derivative products have never hit the shelves prior to Black Friday, Benjamin Glaser, Features Editor at, explains that retailers can “artificially inflate the price” and “exaggerate the discount” because there is no price history available to consumers. Additionally, because these products are considered “new,” there are no reviews available for consumers to compare similar products or fully understand their quality.

Jim Willcox of Consumer Reports also notes that retailers with "price-matching guarantees" can further confuse consumers and bait them into purchasing these less expensive derivative products. Because price-matching offers are almost always “limited to the exact same model,” you can’t exactly compare the legitimate products to their derivative counterparts. This allows retailers to get away with not matching prices and further persuading consumers to purchase cheaper, lower quality derivative products.

The Roku SE: A Derivative Product Created For Black Friday Confusion

This past Black Friday brought many derivative products to the shelf (a majority of them televisions) but the streaming media player Roku SE is one of these “limited” products that has stood out the most. DealNews’ Jeff Somogyi notes that, “Both Kohl’s and Best Buy have made mention of a Black Friday deal for a Roku SE Streaming Player.” Until a week before Black Friday, “there was no such thing as a Roku SE. There are Roku 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and even a Roku Streaming Stick — but no Roku SE.”

Roku respresentatives identified the SE as a “special edition player for the Black Friday weekend.” The item will “retail” at $49.99 and will be reduced to $25 for Black Friday. Although the specs Roku released are sparse, they suggest the SE is very similar to the Roku 1. If this assumption holds true, is seems the SE is simply a rebranded Roku 1 and, as DealNews notes, $25 is an “undeniably good price” for this device.

How To Identify Derivative Products

If you were duped this past Black Friday into purchasing one of these derivative products, have no fear. Consumer reporter Herb Weisbaum of NBC news explains that these products can be easily identified, but you’ll have to do some research beforehand.

Weisbaum suggests searching for the model number of a suspected derivative product. If the only search results are Black Friday deals and you can’t find any customer reviews, you’ve most likely found a derivative product.

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