Black Friday began innocently enough: as a way for retailers to get American shoppers off their couches and into their stores on a day that was traditionally a slow day.

It's now become a day when millions of shoppers rush to retailers looking for deep discounts on the things they need, want, or want to buy for others. And, indeed, the insane deals do exist: flat-panel TVs for a fraction of the cost, housewares at pennies on the dollar, pet supplies for half of what they usually are.

Today, Amazon's ($AMZN) homepage is completely dedicated to Black Friday Deals, urging shoppers to grab a deal while it lasts.

But, the truth is, Amazon actually discounts products less on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

When plotting the average percent discount for all top-ranking products sold at Amazon per day over time, a clear trend emerges. For the past two shopping seasons (2016 and 2017), Amazon slowly decreases the amount it discounts products.

In 2016, for instance, discount percentages rolled from an average 47.15% on November 10. By November 25 (Black Friday's date in 2016), the average discount for Amazon products sunk to 42.75%. By Cyber Monday on November 28, that percentage was just 40.54% — the lowest discount average for the entire season.

In 2017, we see a similar pattern. In mid-October, discounts were averaging as much as 51%. But by Black Friday (November 24), average discounts dropped to 43.87%, and only crept up to 45% on Cyber Monday 2017.

In other words, it appears that Amazon (and its resellers) may have a clever and not entirely savory strategy: slowly ratchet back discounts before Black Friday in order to make the discounts they do offer appear better than they actually are.

Sure, there are deals to be had today, but do yourself a favor if you're taking part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday: check those prices closely and double check that you're actually getting a deal.

Ad placeholder