With some stores opening for ‘Black Friday’ specials on Thanksgiving night - and teaser deals available even earlier - the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana (BBB) advises consumers to consider their budgets and needs before jumping on the deals.
During the holiday shopping season, the pressure to buy can seem overwhelming, especially with one-day deals and specials. Consumers need to consider how they’re going to pay for all their purchases when the bills come after the holidays.
“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 Marjorie Stephens, BBB Director of Marketplace Services. “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.”
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.
Be sure to check return and refund policies before you buy. Although some stores relax their return policies during the holiday season, others may require that returns be made within a few days of purchase. Some only allow returns if a product is defective while others may give store credit instead of cash refunds.
If you are buying a gift that needs to be shipped, ask whether shipping is included in the price and when the item will arrive. In some cases, you may be able to save some money and hassle by buying from a store’s website rather than standing in line at a physical store.
While online shopping can be a way to avoid crowded stores, shoppers need to be careful of the sites they patronize. When shopping online, be sure to:
- 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 very-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 or save on your computer. 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.
Toy safety is a concern for many parents. Make sure any toys you buy are appropriate for the age of the child. If possible, inspect toys carefully to look for sharp edges that may cut, moving parts that can pinch or small, removable pieces that can be a choking hazard. Toy chests should have air holes, and fabric products should be flame-resistant. Check for a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal on electric toys.
Before patronizing a store or website, check a company’s BBB Business Review online at BBB.org
or call 1-800-552-4631.