In the long-long ago, I used to get so amped up for new AV toys to arrive at my house, I was like a kid in a candy store. Eventually, I guess every reviewer gets a little jaded. These days, I am having fun with more affordable, mainstream smart home toys like August Door locks, Ring Doorbells, this new Control4 Neeo remote system, Lutron Caséta lighting and other more affordable goodies that most any of us can trick our homes out with.
Do you want to know what really makes me happy at work these days, though? (And Dennis Burger is as guilty as I am with this). It's carefully following what we sell on our barely one-year-old Amazon affiliate program. Not only do we get to see completely anonymous records of what AV gear our readers actually buy, which helps tremendously when it comes to picking what gear we review in the future. We also get to see some of the crazy stuff that our readers purchase on a whim, be it a pirate eye patches,13-piece S&M bondage kits (which, in full disclosure, I bought to send to my friend's wife, who has a good sense of humor at the Holidays), or a $3,300 Toto bidet-toilet. (Seriously, whichever one of you bought that thing, here's to you and your sparkling tush). There's just too much cool/funny stuff to not check in periodically, even if the Denon receivers and SVS subwoofers pay the bills more effectively via affiliate sales.
The one day that affiliate marketing makes the most money is Black Friday, and we are excited to see how much stuff (AV gear, toilets, or pirate eye patches) you guys buy from our Amazon links compared to last year. But you'll notice that we don't force Black Friday down your throats. The links are there if you want to use them, and we appreciate it more than I can express in words. We're just not going to promote it, mostly because I honestly wonder if we (meaning you, me, all of us) should be focusing so much effort and attention on this over-hyped day of conspicuous consumption, which has now extended to a long five-day orgy of spending known as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber Tuesday. The answer isn't so clear.
Where Black Friday is hard to beat is the much ballyhooed "door buster" deals, which tend to be loss-leader products designed to make The People of Walmart go fisticuffs-crazy not that long after taking in a full Thanksgiving feast. I am not sure that there is anything a retailer could do to get me out to the malls or even Rodeo Drive on Black Friday. For some families, it is a tradition, and I understand that. With all of the decorations up and the Holiday tunes cranking, you can catch the Christmas vibe quickly, and many of us love that. But even if Hermes was giving 50 percent off on Kelly bags, I don't think I would fight my way to Rodeo Drive to get one (sorry, Honey).
That said, for the most part I can take or leave Black Friday. If you enjoy it? That's great. I don't. We can agree to disagree. The one place I really put my foot down is this much more recent trend of starting Black Friday a half-day early, encouraging people to scarf down their Thanksgiving Dinners for lunch and then head off to Best Buy or Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a new electric tooth brush. Can we let people have Thanksgiving off and go crazy the next day? Is that not just a little more civilized?
Anyway, getting back to the point: For AV enthusiasts, Black Fridays past have brought with them some really good online deals on products like Roku Ultras, Ultra HD Blu-ray players, and other mainstream stuff that could help improve nearly anybody's home theater or audiophile systems. Meatier upgrades that make a bigger difference in your overall audio and video don't tend to be as much on sale at this unique time of the year. A Master Series Sony OLED TV or an Anthem AV preamp or a pair of juicy new Focal speakers aren't going on blow out sale no matter what. But what if you talked with your local brick-and-mortar dealer and/or custom installer? What types of deals can he or she do at the holidays, if perhaps you might need a present for you first before you do all of the shopping? Do they have any special trade-in deals? Do they have any offers for calibrations? Could they install a new TV for free? Will they eat the sales tax?
There is a lot that a specialty AV dealer can do to earn your business in late 2019 that you simply can't get from Amazon or Best Buy. They have the highest-performance gear. Period. They also can make your life a lot easier with help moving things in and out of your room. They can recycle old products like that CRT TV that is so outdated you can't even connect any of your source devices to it, but it's too heavy (and loaded with mercury) that you've never gotten rid of it. They can help with that, and you can be a hero for upgrading a TV in another room.
We talked earlier about how Black Friday has been starting earlier and earlier in physical retail stores, and I saw that just today (weeks before the day after Thanksgiving) on the way back from the doctor's office at Cedar Sinai in what we Angelenos call "Beverly Hills Adjacent" (meaning the neighboring 'hood). The newly moved Vispring Mattress store, freshly painted in bright yellow, was boasting Black Friday pricing already. Isn't that a little early? Doesn't that defeat the purpose and what makes Black Friday special? I guess they know what's best for them and what gets people in the front door to buy an insanely expensive mattress.
But online retailers are just as guilty of starting Black Friday prematurely. I was looking at a list of AV products on CNET.com for 2019 Black Friday and one Vizio TV was already sold out. A 55-inch TCL TV's offer had expired. People got amped and bought everything up in a long-before-Black-Friday feeding frenzy. I just wonder if making a one-day event into a six-week pre-sale doesn't start to get a little gross?
At any rate, I'd love to hear from you about your own thoughts on Black Friday and your participation therein. Will you look for special deals? What have you bought over the years that was specifically awesome? What AV gear would you buy if you could on (or around) Black Friday? Would you ask your local dealer to try to match or at least compete with the big-box retailers with deals on-or-around Black Friday on more high-end gear? Post in the comments below as we love to hear from you.
Lastly, a sincere thank you from HomeTheaterReview.com to the people who find our Amazon links useful. When we started this affiliate program back in 2018, I'll admit it was not without a great deal of hesitation, but the readers have responded better that I could have ever dreamed. Truth be told, we make pennies on the sale, but those pennies add up to help pay for the professional AV commentary that we give away for free. And, perhaps more importantly, the data on what you all buy helps us work with our advertising partners to show them that you are a very important audience to reach. Thank you again for your support.