Thanksgiving is almost here and Black Friday shoppers are preparing. Some may even get a jump start with various retailers opening their doors Thursday evening. With U.S. holiday shopping expected to be moderately better this year, price competition is expected to remain fierce.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is offering tips to people planning on taking advantage of Black Friday - traditionally the day after Thanksgiving – sales offers.
“Some people are so eager to get big ticket items, they plan their Thanksgiving around Black Friday sales”, says Ran Hoth, President and CEO. “The crowds this year will be no different. Ease your shopping day by making a game plan, sticking to your budget, and understanding each stores return policy.”
Black Friday shoppers should keep these tips in mind:
- Compare deals. Do you know if a sale is really a sale? It always pays to comparison shop. Take the time to check prices on the same items at various stores.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Make a list, determine how much you can afford to spend on each person, and…stick to it!
- Search for Black Friday ads ahead of time. Newspapers often have coupons that give discounts for Black Friday. Black Friday ads may also be posted on the Internet. Some sites post ads for Black Friday before they’re published.
- Maximize advance alerts. Do you have favorite retailers? Sign up for their email alerts and take advantage of special social network opportunities. Many stores work to reward your loyalty and you may get a jump on special offers.
- Return policies, restocking fees and refunds. Ask for the store’s return policy before you make your purchase. Also, ask about restocking fees, and save your receipts in one place so you don’t lose them. Many stores will require you to produce a receipt for a return.
- Be sure to ask for gift receipts. Without proof of purchase, the recipient may be turned down for returning or exchanging an item or risk receiving a refund at a lower price.
- Gift cards. Gift cards regularly top consumers’ wish lists. When buying gift cards in a store, check the packaging and any security seals to be sure they are intact and haven’t been tampered with. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of each card.
- Check out the company. Visit BBB.ORG before doing business for FREE Business Reviews on local and national companies. When shopping, look for the BBB Seal.
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After Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, savvy shoppers go online to take advantage of Cyber Monday specials. Cyber Monday, which takes place the Monday after Black Friday, has grown increasingly popular among consumers in recent years, as they look for clearance sales some retailers offer online. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers their top ten tips for people doing their shopping online, be it on December 1 – Cyber Monday – or throughout the holiday season:
1. Protect your computer – Your computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.
2. Stick to trustworthy websites – Research the seller’s reputation and track record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trust marks” on retailer websites. Always remember to click on the seals to confirm that they are valid and check out customer reviews online, including those offered by Better Business Bureau.
4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers found on less-traveled websites and in unsolicited emails sometimes advertise suspiciously low prices. When visiting a website, look for misspellings and grammatical errors, as these are signs the site might be fraudulent. Trust your instincts and be leery of unsolicited emails, as they may contain viruses or malware. Don’t be afraid to pass up “deals” that might wind up costing you money instead of saving you money.
5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order or a past transaction to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an email, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the retailer you dealt with or your credit card provider to get to the bottom of the matter. Stay calm, don’t panic and always be protective of your personal and financial information.
6. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.
7. Pay with a credit card – It’s often best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charge if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card or merchandise they receive is damaged or defective.
8. Keep documentation of your order - After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by email. Save a copy of that as well as any emails for future reference and as a record of your purchase.
9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; the BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by checking statements online regularly or by calling their credit card companies if fraud is suspected.
10. Know your rights – Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.