Black Friday Starts on Thursday This Year at Walmart

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Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Leave it to Walmart to one-up the competition. During the winter holiday season, the retail giant has a history of starting price wars over things like books and DVDs, and pushing the envelope with free shipping offers and special price guarantees. This year, several national stores announced they’d open on Thanksgiving at midnight—so technically, Friday—with their best Black Friday specials available for shoppers. What is Walmart doing in response?

If the other stores are opening at midnight, Walmart wants to beat them by a couple of hours. This year, Walmart stores will offer Black Friday doorbusters and deals beginning at 10 p.m. on Thursday, November 24 (i.e., Thanksgiving night).

(RealSimple.comBest Days for Holiday and Christmas Online Shopping)

For a brief time, the idea of “Black Midnight” was emerging as a trend this holiday season. Retailers including Best Buy, Target, Kohl’s, Old Navy, and Macy’s all announced plans to start Black Friday at midnight the night of Thanksgiving, which, of course, is technically Friday. The midnight openings seemed exciting, especially because in years past some of these retailers “only” started Black Friday sales at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.

(MORE: Increasingly, Black Friday Is a Day to Stay Home, Not Hit the Mall)

The New York Times reports that Walmart’s Black Friday deals include men’s Wrangler jeans for $9.97 (beginning at 10 p.m. on Thursday) and electronics like an 8GB iPod Touch for $195 (starting at midnight).

Granted, Walmart is only leaking prices for a few items, but these seem unexciting. Right now at the Walmart website, men’s Wrangler jeans start at a smidge under $16, and an 8GB iPod Touch goes for as little as $189. More of Walmart’s deals are posted here

Walmart’s move is another example of “Black Friday” deals that don’t actually take place on Black Friday. Retailers work under the assumption that the words “Black Friday” trigger some unconscious need for shoppers to race off to the mall with a credit card—they might not be wrong about this assumption—and last year, there were “Black Friday” sales before, during, and after Black Friday itself.

While Walmart makes an especially flexible and creative use of “Friday” this year, Amazon stands out as the retailer stretching the calendar the most. Its “Black Friday” deals launched 24 days before Black Friday.

(MORE: 3 Deals Aimed at Attracting Shoppers the Entire Holiday Season)

If there’s any takeaway for consumers, it’s this: Retailers don’t take a literal approach to their marketing materials. “Black Friday” doesn’t necessarily really mean the actual Black Friday. Even more importantly, “deal” doesn’t mean you’re really getting a deal.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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