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The New Economy

Meet the Black Friday mavens

Whether its Black Friday deals online or in stores, meet the mavens who bring all the sales information together.

By Contributor / November 26, 2009

Black Friday deals maven Jon Vincent sits at in his home office in Tyngsborough, Mass., where he runs BlackFriday.info, a deals and sales website. Meet the mavens behind Black Friday deals both in stores and online.

Sarah Beth Glicksteen/The Christian Science Monitor

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It was a $50 Phillips CD burner that sparked a Black Friday revolution. Of course, Michael Brim didn’t pay $50 for said CD burner. Stringing together a few online coupons, he got it for free.

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“When I’m 14 years old, I thought, ‘Wow, I can get something that retails for $50 for free and it doesn’t take that much effort,’ ” Mr. Brim says.

A Black Friday maven was born.

Brim, now in his fifth year at California Polytechnic and State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., runs BFads.net, a popular site dedicated to Black Friday sales of all sorts. He’s one of several Web entrepreneurs who have capitalized on America’s growing fascination with the deep discounts offered by retailers on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

The Full-Contact Shopper

While a CD burner got him into the game, it was a 4:30 a.m. run through Fry’s Electronics near his childhood home that let Brim know he belonged in the world of Black Friday warriors.

Plunging through a crowd as a 100-pound, 5’4” middleschooler, Brim found himself in a scrum for packages of computer hardware at a doorbusting price. When he wriggled out of the press of adults carrying three items, he was hooked.

“You gotta remember, I was a young teenage boy and it was full contact shopping. There’s just some sort of rush that I get when you go out and you beat people to stuff and you out maneuver them,” Brim says.

As a high school junior, Brim launched his first Black Friday site, BF2004.net, before opening BFads in 2005. After a slew of media attention, including a write-up that appeared prominently in the New York Times, traffic to his site exploded.

While coy about just how many mailing list subscribers he has or what his site generates in terms of revenue, Brim has been able to pay an associate to help keep up his site and several writers to put together a number of Black Friday shopping guides.

It’s the guides – which point out the best deals for laptops at various price levels, for example – that Brim sees as his best service to shoppers who aren’t deal fanatics.

“I really try to cookbook it and lay it out. It’s basically handholding but a lot of people appreciate handholding,” Brim says. “If I were unfamiliar with something, to have someone say, instead of one is the best, that, ‘Well, all these TVs are good in their own way,’ I might end up buying one that sucks. I would just rather someone tell me, ‘This is the one, here’s the budget.’ ”

Putting together the guides are help he’s needed — while he takes the minimum class load during the fall quarter at Cal Poly, his sleeping habits are wrecked during the Black Friday season. But the work makes Brim a tidy financial windfall.

“If I lived anywhere other than California I’d be self sufficient just running the site,” Brim says.

And an increasing focus on online deals will make future Black Fridays better and better for Black Friday mavens. Because BFads makes a small commission when shoppers pass through their site en route to making a purchase on a retailer’s page, they stand to gain even more in years to come.

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