Wallingford, CT – November 24, 2011 – With holiday ornaments and greenery going up in stores before Halloween and some stores opening for ‘Black Friday’ before the Thanksgiving turkey is even in the oven, consumers may find the pressure to buy overwhelming. By doing research on the items on your gift list before you go shopping, you will know whether advertised deals are all they’re cracked up to be.
Some Black Friday deals may look good on the surface, but quantities may be limited or the size of the discount exaggerated. Consumers can make an educated decision as to whether it’s worthwhile to stand in line or miss a good night’s sleep by comparing retailers’ prices.
When buying gifts, it’s important to keep receipts for all purchases in case the recipient needs to return an item. Many stores will provide a gift receipt upon request, which allows returns but doesn’t show the recipient how much you paid for a gift.
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 returns be made within a few days of purchase. Some only allow returns or exchanges if a product is defective. Others may give store credit instead of cash refunds.
While online shopping is a convenient way to avoid crowded stores, consumers need to be careful where they buy:
- Protect your personal information - Check to see how your information may be used online – if it will be shared with third parties.
- Check websites’ security settings and privacy policies - If the site is secure, its address should start with http"s"://. You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
- Know the company’s refund and return policies - Are there restocking fees? Do you have to pay shipping costs on returns?
- Don't make buying decisions based only on pictures of a product - Read the description, and consumer reviews, and check model numbers, if applicable.
- Be cautious of free or very-low-price offers - Free offers are typically followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything online, make sure you read and understand all terms and conditions.
- Pay with a credit card - If you suspect fraud or don’t receive your order, you can challenge a credit card 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. 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 numbers or other personal information. Legitimate businesses do not send emails asking for personal information in the event of a problem.
Trying to juggle your holiday budget? Here are some great tips on keeping your budget intact, include an online budget calculator to help you make a list and check it twice:http://video.bbb.org/clearpoint-holiday-tips/clearpoint-holiday-budgeting-calculator.html
If you’d rather skip the crowds and support small, local businesses, check out the second annual Small Business Saturday:http://www.bbb.org/us/article/bbb-urges-consumers-to-support-small-business-saturday-30348
And if you prefer to shop online, check out our Cyber Monday tips to avoid holiday scams:http://www.bbb.org/us/article/cyber-monday-great-deals-to-be-had-but-watch-out-for-scams-30795
Charitable giving is a holiday tradition, too, but how you give is as important as what you give:http://www.bbb.org/us/article/how-you-give-is-just-as-important-as-what-you-give-30363
Always verify a seller’s reputation at www.bbb.org