With Black Friday coming up, the holiday gift-buying season will be in full swing. Your BBB has some tips to help keep you and your personal information safe from scammers and to help you negotiate the Black Friday shopping spree.
Tips to Help You Prepare for Black Friday
Have a definite plan is the advice of most shopping experts. In past Thanksgivings, my family would relax after dinner and clemap out a route to maximize our savings. With many stores starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day this year, we are going to have to come up with a new plan of action. Many stores are “leaking” their Black Friday ads early just for that purpose. So, whether you’re going to shop on Thanksgiving Day or on Black Friday, the ads will be available to you. If you have favorite stores, you might want to consider signing up for their email alerts for specials.
Create a budget. An average shopper in the 2013 holiday season is estimated to spend $737.95 according to the National Retail Federation. To help you avoid overspending, some experts recommend using a prepaid credit card as long as they offer the same anti-fraud protection as a regular credit card.
Huge discounts on electronics don’t always mean you’re getting a good deal. Sometimes, the products offered are the lower-end models with only basic features specially produced for the holiday season. Check the model number on the store’s website or search for the model number in a search engine. If that model number isn’t for sale at several different stores, it may be what’s called a derivative product or a stripped-down model with the accessories costing extra.
Read the fine print. Often stores advertise a whopping discounted price, but the fine print states you have to send in a rebate. More and more stores are offering rebates in the form of store credit only, so if you do not shop there regularly, the rebate might not be such a good deal. Also, make it a point to send in the rebate as soon as you get home; otherwise, you might forget.
Bring the ads with you when you do your shopping. It’s always good to have the ad in case there is any question about the merchandise or price. Also, some stores will match a low price from another store, and they need to see the ad to verify.
Tips for Black Friday In-Store Shopping and Cyber Monday Online Shopping
Fellow BBB staff members from the Western Pennsylvania BBB and the New York BBB offer these tips:
Prepare your computer for online shopping. Make sure your firewall is up and running, your anti-virus and anti-malware software are updated, and run scans regularly.
Check the company’s business review and complaint history with your BBB.
Read a store’s return policy on their website or at the register before you buy. Some stores charge a restocking fee and may have a shorter return period. If you’re buying from a seasonal store, make sure the store will still be around after Christmas in case you have to return something. Some stores print their return policy on the receipt. If the return policy is not stated on the receipt but rather on a sign posted at the register, you may want to snap a picture of the sign with you cell phone for future reference.
Verify that you are using a secure website. The web address should start with https:// instead of just http://. Another sign that the site is secure is a picture of a small lock near the address bar or at the bottom of your screen. A BBB seal on the store’s website indicates that the business agrees to follow the BBB Code of Business Practices, including its online standard, respects the privacy and email preferences of its visitors, and commits to work with its customers and BBB to resolve disputes. The Ad Choices logo on websites means you can find out when information about your online interests is being gathered or used to customize the Web ads you see and allows you to choose whether to continue to allow this type of advertising.
Use different passwords for each online account. Many online retailers ask you to set up an account in order to purchase something online. If you use the same password for all your accounts including your email or bank accounts and the store’s website is hacked, your account could be wiped out, your credit card could have unauthorized charges on it, and your identity could be stolen.
Shop with a credit card. Credit cards offer protection from unauthorized charges to your account.
Keep documentation of your order. Save the paper receipt if you’re shopping in the store, and if you’re ordering online, save and/or print a copy of the order page with the confirmation number and any emails about the order.
Watch out for copycat websites in which identity thieves slightly alter the URL of a well-known company’s website. These sites are created to steal your credit card and banking information.
Do not click on links in emails from unknown sources; in holiday ecards, holiday screen savers, and holiday videos from unknown persons; in emails claiming to be from a mail delivery service stating that they are trying to deliver a package, or in emails that seem suspicious.
Use extreme caution when downloading shopping, price comparing, or other apps to your smart phone or tablet. Check out the company offering the app with your BBB. Only download apps from trustworthy vendors.
Know Your Consumer Rights. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), by law, a company should ship your order within the time stated in its ads. If no time is promised, the company should ship your order within 30 days after receiving it. If the company is unable to ship within the promised time, they must give you an “option notice.” This notice gives you the choice of agreeing to the delay or canceling your order and receiving a prompt refund. There is one exception to the 30-day Rule: if a company doesn’t promise a shipping time, and you are applying for credit to pay for your purchase, the company has 50 days to ship after receiving your order.
Also, if you receive merchandise that is defective or misrepresented, you have the right to reject it. But if the merchandise is as you ordered, then the policies of the company determine whether you can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit, so be sure you understand the company’s return policies before you complete the purchase.
For more information you can trust, visit your BBB at Evansville.bbb.org.