- BEFORE YOU GO
Bone Up On Store Policies: Don’t just look at the price tags for those deeply discounted items. Do some research to find out what each store’s policies are for refunds, returns, exchanges, restocking fees. If you’re buying on layaway, read through all the fine print to make sure your purchase won’t be bogged down with fees and to know exactly what the payment terms are. Store employees should be able to tell you about all of this, but between seasonal workers and the crush of Black Friday shoppers, it’s best to check out the store’s websites and look for any fine print on the advertising circulars.
Figure Out If The Markdown Is Inflated: Here’s some more research you should do before being sucked in by a “75% OFF!” burst in a Black Friday ad. Look today to see what price the store is selling and use that to compare the advertised discount. A TV advertised as 50% off a $500 sticker price is a bit misleading if you can buy that same TV today for $325.
Take the Black Friday Ads With You: Don’t trust that the store has correctly priced everything in accordance with the ad you get in tomorrow’s newspaper. Having the print ad will allow you to confirm that you are getting what was advertised. Additionally, some retailers will be offering price-matching this holiday season. It’s unlikely you’ll get price-matching on the doorbuster discounts, as those are limited-supply items usually offered at extremely low price points. But for items that meet the price-match criteria, you’ll likely need the ad to get the lower price.
- AT THE STORE:
Use A Credit Card: Yes, we just finished telling you to be mindful of how much it will cost you if you don’t pay your credit card bill off in full, but the fact is that credit cards offer many more consumer protections — covering everything from fraud and ID theft to automatic extended warranties — that you won’t get from debit cards or paying with cash. So use your credit card when you can, but don’t go spending more than you can afford to pay for.
Don’t Forget Your Receipt: Don’t just throw the receipt in the bag. We suggest keeping receipts in order in your wallet or in an envelope so that you’re not later sorting through a sea of plastic bags when you go to return or exchange a purchase.
Don’t Shop With Strangers: Now is the time of year when operators of fake or sketchy online retail sites hope to lure in inexperienced shoppers, especially those people looking for a hard-to-find or prohibitively expensive item. Before you buy something from a site you’ve never heard of, ask friends about it, check with groups like the Better Business Bureau, and use your common sense. Ask yourself, “If I walked by the bricks-and-mortar equivalent of this store, would I even think to shop there?” Be leery of e-tailers with overly long URLs that don’t end in .com or .co. If you’re still not sure, it’s better to pay a little more at a site you know than risk being scammed by a stranger.
Make Sure Your Shopping Experience Is Secure With HTTPS: When you’re in the purchasing phase of your online order, look at the URL for the site. It should begin with “HTTPS://” thus indicating that your connection to that site is secure. If you don’t see that or the padlock icon next to the URL, you really shouldn’t be shopping there.