TechGear: Black Friday made easy

Mike Elgan explains how to get the best deals on those early-morning holiday sales

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The holiday season is a time for family and friends to bask in the glow of one another's company, all in the spirit of fellowship and goodwill toward all mankind.

It's also a time to save big bucks on new gadgets!

Black Friday looms -- it's just one week away. Unfortunately, the big discount shopping day has become incredibly complex. A search for "black friday" on Google brings up more than 58 million pages, and on Google News, more than 31,000 pages. Pundits and experts have published hundreds of tips and facts on how to navigate the complexities of store hours, return policies, leaked ads and buying strategies.

But if you just want to save a few bucks on Christmas shopping and don't want a massive homework project, here's my advice on how to make Black Friday super-easy.

There are four major sites that leak Black Friday ads and prices. All these sites duplicate one another's content. Two of them have mobile versions, but one of them has the best mobile version: http://m.bfads.net/.

So to save the most money with the least effort, use only that Web site -- from your PC or your cell phone. Here's how.

Wait until Thanksgiving, then go to the site. The reason you want to wait is that you're "comparison shopping" for the best prices, but many of those prices haven't been leaked yet.

If you know what you want exactly, simply use the site's Search function to find the model at the top of the page (for example, to find a Microsoft Zune media player, just search for "Zune"). The search feature will deliver all the stores that will discount it, with all prices shown. You'll see right away that the store with the best price can be surprising. For example, a 30GB Zune player, which normally costs about $200, will be discounted on Black Friday to $99 at CompUSA and RadioShack, but will cost only $79.99 at -- drum roll, please -- Toys R Us!

If you know what you want, but not precisely -- say, you want a new TV, but don't have a specific make and model in mind -- search for the product category name. For example, search for "TV."

If you're planning to visit just a couple of nearby stores and know which ones, just click on the store names from the home page and see what they've got.

Here's the most important part -- and why the http://m.bfads.net/ mobile site is better than the other one. After you've narrowed down the product and store, click on the store name from the home page. At the top, you'll see "Sale Begins" followed by a time. That's when the store will open. There will be a big line forming before the store opens. Many open at 5 a.m. on Friday, or even at one minute after midnight! One of the tricks stores pull is to limit inventory, so the best products with the best prices may be sold out by 6 a.m. Get there early.

While you're at the store, make sure you can access http://m.bfads.net/ from your phone. You may need to do some quick comparison shopping.

So there you have it: By using only the http://m.bfads.net/ site, you'll get 90% of the benefits of doing weeks of research but with 10% of the effort.

Happy shopping!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I just launched a brand-new blog on the Computerworld.com site called The World Is My Office. The blog will be unlike any other blog on the planet and will explore the new world of radical mobility -- no-compromises computing from absolutely anywhere. Check it out here!

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A company called Gamercize this week launched a product called GZ PC-Sport & Power Steppe, which fits under a standard-sized desk. You step on it for exercise, and it can be configured to shut down your mouse and keyboard if you get lazy and stop stepping. Also, learn about ads coming to you soon -- via your mobile device.

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Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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