A lot of Canadians will be heading over the border to Washington State this weekend for Black Friday sales.
A big part of those sales will involve consumer electronics and gadgets. Will these shoppers save money? Not necessarily.
The disparity in prices for tech between Canadian and U.S. retailers for the same products was long a sore spot for shoppers north of the 49th.
Prices finally levelled out, more or less, when the Canadian dollar reached parity with its American counterpart and Canadian consumers complained.
In general, Canadians still pay more for the exact same device.
Apple, for example, has consistently charged more for its products in Canada than in the U.S. no matter what the currency exchange rates have been.
The second generation iPad mini costs $399 from Apple in the U.S. but $419 in Canada.
The Apple TV is $99 for Americans and $109 for Canadians. The latest Macbook pro starts at $1,299 in the U.S. and $1,349 for Canucks.
Apple is not alone. Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 7 inch tablet is $229 in the U.S., $254 in Canada. The Fire, while considered a good tablet, is a sour example of paying more for less since the Canadian version does not have access to Amazon's music or video stores, two key services for which the Fire was designed to showcase.
Often, the differences in pricing make no sense. Dell sells its Venue 8 Pro tablet, an apparent sleeper hit, for $299 on both sides of the border.
But its larger sibling, the Venue 11 Pro, starts at $499 in the U.S. and $549 in Canada. Why? In other cases, the prices for the same products are exactly the same. Want to buy an Xbox One? Save gas and get it at home because it's $499 on both sides of the border.
The same goes for the PlayStation 4 at $399. Microsoft, by the way, seems to be one of the most Canada-friendly of tech brands. Its Surface tablets cost exactly the same in both Richmond and Redmond.
You can see a pattern here. For the major brands, few of the differences in price between north and south are enough to make you jump into the car to Bellingham, unless you're buying in bulk.
At most, the differences are enough to be annoying, as if the Americans are reminding us they're still peeved we didn't join their republic.
One other point: to the best of my knowledge, none of the devices I've mentioned here will be discounted for Black Friday.
So why cross the border at all for consumer tech? The reason is much greater choice and a range of cheap, no name products and accessories you'll never find at home.
Look at the websites for both Amazon in the U.S. and here in Canada and you'll wonder if you're dealing with the same retailer when it comes to inventory.
The same goes for brick and mortar stores like Best Buy. Americans simply have more stuff to sell.
Televisions are a good example. The Canadian Best Buy site offers products from eight manufacturers.
The American Best Buy offers more than 50 brands. A lot of them are small, no name knockoffs, but in an era when most modern TVs are good enough for the great majority of consumers, these smaller brands are where savings are found.
Vizio, for example, is a U.S.-based manufacturer that makes cheap but wellregarded televisions and home theatre accessories. But they are for sale only in America.
Moving to another popular category, the disparity is worse. Best Buy in Canada offers tablets from 15 manufacturers. For Best Buy U.S., that number is 87.
There are a couple of other points to consider before you decide if you'll head south.
On Black Friday, real savings will be found in Washington State, but you'll have to rely on smarts, luck and (in true American style) aggression against other shoppers in finding bargains.
A lot of the sales seem to work exactly the same as Boxing Day, that is deeply discounting a few, often obsolete items to attract hordes of shoppers into the stores where, once the discounted items are gone, they'll find regular prices for everything else.
Another consideration involves returns and servicing. Products you buy at an American Best Buy must be returned to an American Best Buy if you want a refund or need servicing.
Best Buy Canada won't do it, so be prepared to make additional trips south if you want to return that iPad or get it replaced if it doesn't work.
You might save money. You might also do a lot of driving. Add it up to the price of sovereignty.
Barry Link is the editor of the Vancouver Courier.