SAN JOSE, Calif. – It’s two weeks before Black Friday, but a host of tattletale Web sites have already exposed bargains shoppers can expect.

According to www.BFAds.net, a site operated by teenage San Jose native Michael Brim, those deals include a Motorola RAZR cell phone for $19.99 at Circuit City, a $99.99 diamond bracelet at Sears and a $379.99 HP laptop at Best Buy.

Other sites posting deals early for Black Friday – the day-after-Thanksgiving discount and shopping extravaganza – include BF-06.com, Dealtaker.com and Blackfriday.gottadeal.com.

Some stores are infuriated about having the covers yanked off their holiday surprises in advance.

“Retailers are not a big fan of those sites,” National Retail Federation spokeswoman Ellen Davis said. “If retailers wanted their customers to know about Black Friday deals early, they’d put them up on their own Web sites.”

The sites typically post what appear to be actual full-page newspaper ads, or text highlights of upcoming deals, presumably provided anonymously by people involved in their printing or distribution. Those ads are often copyrighted, retailers say, making it legally questionable to show them without the company’s permission.

This week, BFAds.net removed Linens-n-Things ads in response to a terse letter, which is posted on the site. People looking for Linens-n-Things Black Friday discounts on the site get this short note: “Sorry! This store has been removed due to a legal complaint.”

More could be on the way. Someone from a competing site that dishes about Black Friday sales contacted Brim on Friday, reporting they had received a cease and desist letter from Best Buy.

Brim isn’t flinching. A few irate letters won’t be enough to stop what’s become a popular movement to post Black Friday deals in advance on other Web sites, message boards or blogs. “The deal information is out there,” he said.

To get his site’s information, Brim said he scours message boards for information and also obtains submissions directly, sometimes from frequent buyers who get early notice from retailers about upcoming sales. “Where they get them from we don’t know, we don’t ask,” he said. “We just assume they got them in a legitimate manner.”

The trend might be sparking retailers to do things differently, according to Brim. Last year, he said, several stores released their Black Friday sale information online the weekend before the Big Day. “So,” Brim said, “I really think we might be changing how nearly everyone gets to see Black Friday ads.”

The busiest day last year for BFAds.net was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when about 3.6 million people viewed 37 million pages, said Brim.

A sophomore electrical engineering major at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, 19-year-old Brim said he runs the site because it’s fun. “It is self-supporting, but not anything I could live off of,” he said.

So far, there’s one advertiser – Google – which paid Brim about the $3,000 it cost last year to run the site from mid-October through early December.

BFAds.net started a few years ago, after bargain-minded Brim ferreted out retailers’ Black Friday ads on a variety of obscure online forums. Thinking others also might want advance notice of sales, he posted a text listing of Black Friday deals on his personal Web site in 2003.

Traffic to the site surged.

The next year, Brim started a separate Web site to preview retailers’ Black Friday deals. BFAds.net’s features now include functions to create personal shopping lists and find coupons and rebates. On the way – links to consumer product reviews.

The site has drawn scorn from retailers including Sears, Roebuck, which sent Brim a warning letter last year, although BFAds.net continues to have Sears information. The site will not carry information from Office Depot, Brim said, because last year the company threatened legal action.

Black Friday serves as the unofficial kickoff to the make-or-break holiday shopping season, when retailers can bring in up to 40 percent of their sales for the year. The day got its name because historically it generated a surge of shoppers that pushed some stores out of “the red” – debt – and into “the black” – profitability – for the year.

Customers spent about $8 billion at retailers on Black Friday last year, according to research firm ShopperTrak.


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