Holiday shopping doesn’t have to destroy your nerves or your budget if you research the items you want to buy and set limits on what you will spend, the Better Business Bureau advises.
“Some Black Friday deals may look good on the surface, but quantities may be extremely limited or the size of the discount greatly exaggerated,” said Patricia B. Rose, BBB President. “By checking prices at several retailers and reading advertisements carefully, consumers can make an educated decision on whether it’s worthwhile to stand in line or miss a good night’s sleep.”
Start planning now. Many retail stores are already promoting Black Friday deals in ads and on their websites. Take time to print out or clip ads for items you are interested in buying to help outline your shopping day in advance.
Read the fine print on gift cards. These can be found on the back of the card and will let you know the terms and conditions for using the card. There could be limitations to in-store purchases or exclusions on certain items.
Ask about return policies. While many stores offer a 30-day return policy, it is important to read the terms and conditions associated with each purchase. And remember that the refund policy usually applies to the day you purchase the item not when you give the item as a gift. Be sure to request gift receipts for all gifts.
Ask for gift receipts. When buying gifts, it’s important to obtain and keep receipts for all purchases in case the recipient needs to return an item. Many stores will provide gift receipts upon request, which allow returns but don’t show the recipient how much you paid for an item.
Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, has replaced Black Friday as the most popular day to shop for the holidays.
The BBB recommends the following tips for shopping online this holiday season to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:
Protect your personal information. Check to see how your information may be used online. When shopping at stores, keep your card out of sight and make sure you get it back and safely in your wallet before you leave the store.
Know the company’s refund and return policies. Are there restocking fees? Do you have to pay shipping costs on returns?
Do not rely on pictures of a product. Read the description and check model numbers, if applicable.
Be cautious of free or low-price offers. Often, free offers are followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything online, make sure you click on and read all terms and conditions.
Pay with a credit card. If you suspect fraud or don’t receive your order, you can challenge the charge in the event of a dispute.
Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped.
Print out the order. Make sure you have the documentation page for online orders and save it until the order arrives.
Be aware of phishing. Don’t respond to emails that ask for your credit card or bank account number or other personal information. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming there is a problem with an order or account to lure you into revealing financial information. Call the company or find the customer service form on the company website to confirm any problem.
Check a company’s BBB Business Review before you do business with a company or charity by going to www.youngstown.bbb.org or by calling 330.744.3111.