6 Hilariously Bad Black Friday Deals From The Past Decade

vhs movies

Photo: Flickr/Marmella

Call us sentimental old fools, but we like to cast our mind back to yesteryear, to those “good old days” when things were simpler. You know, to 2003.Back then, Black Friday was not as big a deal as it is today, but merchants were still very much in the habit of enticing people to line up in front of their stores in the early AM.

Many of those deals, in hindsight, were ridiculous—and would continue to seem so for years and years.

So, with our feet planted in 2012 and our eyes gazing into the past, let’s take a look at some historical (hysterical?) Black Friday “deals” from back-in-the-day…and mock them, cruelly!

1. Black Friday 2003: VHS

Nine years ago, RadioShack would have sold you a Cinevision DVD-VCR for $119.99. These days, we don’t even pay that much for Blu-ray players! VHS was already solidly replaced by DVDs back then, too. One could argue, however, that RadioShack was not (and is not) catering to people who know much about technology, so this “deal” was probably tapping into that mum-and-pop “we still have our kids’ old dance recitals on VHS and want to bring the tapes out any time our kid brings a new boyfriend home” mentality.

2. Black Friday 2004: CRTs

Eight years ago, Walmart thought you would be tempted to wait outside in the cold for hours to get your hands on an HP Pavilion Computer for $498. What made it a smokin’ deal? It came bundled with a 17″ Flat CRT! That was only eight years ago, but it seems so barbaric through our 2012, LCD flat-panel eyes. Amusingly, Walmart also thought it could lure you to stores if it offered Will & Grace Season 1 on DVD for $12.99.

3. Black Friday 2005: Robosapien

Seven years ago, there was no cloud. We were all backing up our data onto CDs, remember? That’s why Staples hilariously chose to offer an alluring HP CD-R Media 100-Pack for $14.94 on Black Friday. That was only $0.15/disc, which sounds cheap until you consider that most of them would get messed up during burning and become a coaster anyway.

Staples also notably offered a Maxtor 200GB Internal Hard Drive for $29.94. Two hundred gigabytes? Back then, we must’ve thought there was no way a normal human being could fill up that much space. And speaking of amusing storage capacities, the office supply store also offered a Palm Tungsten E Handheld Device bundled with a Creative 256MB MP3 Player for $149.94.

It should be noted that as we scanned these ancient ads, we were shocked to see that Linens ‘n Things stores, well, still existed. But they also offered the Robosapien (pictured) for $39.99. Were we ever so simple as a people to hope that the pinnacle of robotics would be a mechanical monkey that danced?

The “Missed It By That Much” trophy goes to Walmart, however, which offered the Xbox System Bundle (which came with one (!) game) for $179.24. Quite a deal … until you remember that the next Xbox model — the Xbox 360 — would be released just days before Black Friday on November 22.

4. Black Friday 2006: Portable CD Players

This was the year that Circuit City offered a Canon DC100 Mini DVD Digital Camcorder for $349.99 as one of its promotional in-store lure items. Apparently we used to think recording video directly onto a DVD was the way of the future. And, apparently, there was also a time when $350 seemed like a “bargain” to do so.

In 2006, despite the fact that the iPod had been on the market for five years, Circuit City was also promoting a Memorex Portable Personal CD Player for $9.99. Quite a steal, as long as you overlooked the dead format. Target then stepped up to the Black Friday plate and took a swing at offering a Dane-Elec 512MB Secure Digital Card for $7.97. In today’s terms, that’s an astonishing $15.94/GB.

5. Black Friday 2007: Digital Picture Frames

f.y.e. thought you would like to buy Shaun of the Dead on HD-DVD for $16.99. They also boasted that you could possibly get your hands on the Nintendo Wii for $249.99—the list price of the then almost-1-year-old console. But this wasn’t unique to f.y.e., as any merchants’ Black Friday ads proudly proclaimed that they would offer the Wii at its list price. Back then, if you remember, just having the Wii in stock at the holidays was a big deal—and would continue to be for several more years.

In 2007, we started to see a heavy push for digital picture frames. Years later, a study would find that no one ever wanted them and no one ever asked for them, yet everyone thought they would make great gifts. (They didn’t.) It’s a weird glitch in America’s history; we were all under a group delusion that these things were desirable. Actually, there were two major glitches in the American consumer consciousness in 2007; people were also under the impression that wheeled shoes were a good idea for kids. Part of Finish Line’s Black Friday promo offered all Heely’s for $29.99 each.

Maybe they just wanted to clear out stock, but Best Buy was still trying to push, as a Black Friday deal, a 24″ Digital Flat Tube SDTV for $179.99. Similarly over-stocked (we hope) was Target, which offered a TDK VHS Tapes 12-Pack for $4.99.

Something else that tickled our post-Thanksgiving wishbone in 2007, were the multiple stores that promoted deals on “candybar” cell phones. The Apple iPhone had just been announced in the run-up to Black Friday, and it essentially made every other mobile phone — “deal” or not — look like a steamy pile of … stuffing. (Or dressing, if you prefer.) For instance, Best Buy was hocking the Verizon LG Chocolate Cell Phone for $49.99.

6. Black Friday 2008: Clock Radios

This was the year in which the world was introduced to the joys and horrors of a split skateboard. The Razor RipStik Caster Board was one of Target’s Black Friday deals of the year and it sold for $59. We wonder how many kids woke up on Christmas morning not realising they’d be spending Christmas night in the ER.

You could record your child’s demise then with a Flip Video Ultra Series F260B Camcorder for $129.99 from Staples. 2008 was already several years in to the flip cam’s lifespan—and several years from its decline—but they were still selling like video-recording hot cakes. And why wouldn’t they? They seemed like a good idea before we all had smartphones or iPod touches that took better video. (And before we all realised that we would never remember to put a video camera in our pocket each day before leaving the house.)

Everyone thinks that Black Friday is when you should go toy shopping. Apparently, Toys “R” Us didn’t get the memo because one of their deals was an AM/FM Clock Radio in Purple for $4.99. Sure, that’s a great price, but possibly the most boring gift you could ever give a child. Slightly better might have been the High School Musical Bike for $69 at Walmart, but would a parent have been willing to wait in line for that? After all, it was the High School Musical 3 bike. Alternatively, Walmart was one of the first to offer a discount on the Nintendo Wii, selling it for $249.24. (Remember, $249.99 was its list price—talk about savings!)

After looking back to those olden-days, we can conclusively say that people sure bought and sold some terrible tech back then, huh? Surely the people of 2021 won’t be looking back at us in 2012 and saying the same thing … right?

Well, we hope you enjoyed this sentimental, eye-rolling trip down Black Friday Memory Lane. What’s the in-hindsight most hilarious Black Friday deal you were ever proud to have snagged? We’d love to know, so tell us in the comments below!

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