How to spot a ‘derivative’ product on Black Friday

WASHINGTON — When you hear “Black Friday,” you probably think of big steals and deals. But when it comes to some electronics — televisions, in particular — the price doesn’t always tell the whole story.

Are you getting a great deal on a high-quality model or a good price on a low-end set made just for Black Friday?

Herb Weisbaum, consumer reporter for NBC News, says you’ll need to do your homework.

“That door buster deal on a TV or other electronic product could be a real steal on a great item. Or it could be the model that’s been cranked out in a limited run just for Black Friday,” Weisbaum explains. “In the business these are known as ‘derivative’ products.”

He says manufacturers will sometimes simply give an existing product a new model number, or they may choose to make changes to a current model in order to hit a lower price point.

“For example, they could have one less HDMI input or use lower quality parts to hit that lower price,” Weisbaum says.

Weisbaum says it is a strategy that makes it harder for consumers to do comparison shopping, because you won’t find the same product elsewhere or be able to read reviews.

So how do you spot these “derivative” products?

“The best you can do … is take the model number and search for it. If the only results you get are on Black Friday ads, you can’t find any reviews, chances are it’s one of these ‘derivative’ products made specifically for Black Friday,” Weisbaum says. “It might be a good deal, it might not.”

 Listen to the Weisbaum’s interview with WTOP’s Dimitri Sotis below, and click here for more details.

September 22, 2023 | NBC News’ Herb Weisbaum talks avoiding the pitfalls of Black Friday deals

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