According to Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey, spending on holiday gifts is expected to average $718 per shopper, with one-quarter of U.S. consumers planning to spend more on holiday shopping this year.
The survey of 500 participants also found consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping has reached its highest level in eight years. Two-thirds of respondents said they are likely to shop on Black Friday. Plans to shop on Thanksgiving rose to 45 percent.
BBB Tip: Frenzied sales can create impulse buys. Start with deciding the maximum amount you will spend for the holidays, make a list of the people you will be buying gifts for, and stick to your dollar limit.
Some retailers are counting on the fact that most people aren’t really comparing prices, but just assuming who has the deals, and the best days to shop. Be mindful that some retailers offer great specials, but only stock the store with a few of each item so it will sell out within the first 5 minutes, then hoping you will spend more on other items; a practice known as “Bait and Switch.”
Nearly all respondents said that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions, and more than one in four said that it would take a discount of 50 percent or more to persuade them to make a purchase.
BBB Tip: Price isn’t everything. Remember that some online stores lure you with low prices but charge more for shipping. Also note that changes in the law require that some online merchants must now charge you for state sales tax. How much are you paying for the name alone? Are there equal or superior products with lesser-known names? Also know when shopping online that new technologies allow merchants to charge some people more or less than others based on buying habits, your zip code or the device you use to shop. See my previous post entitled My Price! Is Not Your Price! Check a company’s complaint history and advertising by visiting bbb.org/search
57 percent of consumers plan to purchase gift cards, making it the top item on shopping lists) this year. Paying with a credit card gives you 60 days of protection against items not delivered, damaged, or receipt of the wrong item entirely.
The new chip and pin cards provide better security when implemented correctly, and will be issued to U.S. residents throughout 2015. Unfortunately, there is already a smartphone app allowing someone to get your card number and recent transactions just by getting within a few inches of your chip-based card. Reduce the odds of this happening to you by placing your card in a metal sleeve or even rapping your card in foil.
Protections do not currently extend to prepaid cards. That may change soon due to Proposed New Prepaid Debit Card Rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
BBB Tip: Avoid buying gift cards on the secondary market. Buy directly through the merchant or your credit card company. Get a receipt of activation when buying in-store, and hang onto it to protect both the recipient and yourself. Loyalty programs.
One-third said they would be likely to share more personal info including contact details and preferences, so retailers can provide them with personalized holiday offers. BBB Tip: Guard personal and financial information. Less is more. Be careful who you share with, and watch your passwords. Watch online “free” subscriptions that may turn into monthly charges after an introductory period.
Watch for “phishing” emails from “phony” retailers or shippers that try to trick you into exposing passwords or financial info. Almost two thirds, 63 percent indicated that they will use a laptop or home computer to make purchases or assist in their holiday shopping this season, (up 16 percent from last year), and 24 percent plan to use a smartphone. Thirteen percent said they’ll use social networking sites to assist them with holiday shopping. BBB Tip: Never make purchases while on public Wi-Fi. Only use secure, encrypted, https sites.
Don’t use the same password for user accounts that you also use for your bank account.
71 percent of consumers plan to participate in the practice known as “webrooming”. This is where people either first browse online and then go into a store to make their purchase, or first go to a store to see and feel the product before then going online to buy at a reduced price.
After shipping delays last year, one in two are concerned about receiving deliveries from online purchases on time, and of those, nearly one out of five are “very” concerned.
BBB Tip: Place online orders early. For items and letters you wish to arrive by Dec. 24, the US Postal Service offers the following deadlines:
Dec. 15 – Anything to be sent Standard Post.
Dec. 20 – Anything sent by First Class Mail or First Class Priority Mail.
Dec. 23 – Anything sent Priority Mail Express. To reduce shipping complaints against online merchants, The FTC updated rules governing mail- and phone-based retailers to include e-commerce.
Online retailers now must abide by a 30-day shipping requirement, or refund customers’ payments if they can’t.