Tis the season for holiday shopping! One of the busiest shopping periods of the year is right around the corner, consisting of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 140 million consumers plan to or will shop over the weekend to take advantage of extended store hours and retailers’ holiday promotions.
“While it is understandable to want to find the perfect holiday gift for a loved one at the best rate, it is important to read all of the fine print and store policies regarding returns and exchanges first,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “All deals are not created equally, so plan ahead to ensure your experience is as smooth and stress-free as possible.”
Before embarking on your holiday shopping adventure, consider the following helpful tips from your BBB:
·Avoid overspending by creating a gift budget for friends and family members. Make a list of the potential gifts you are considering for each person on your list to help prevent purchasing impulse presents that may exceed your budget.
·Ask about return and exchange policies and keep a copy of all receipts, asking for gift receipts when appropriate. A store’s typical return policy may differ from the one being offered on items sold during a Black Friday deal. It’s possible that all sales could be final or the time frame to return or exchange a product may be significantly shorter. Keep in mind that a store is not required to accept a purchase for refund, exchange or credit unless the item is misrepresented or defective. You should also ask if a retailer charges any restocking fees.
·Protect your identity. Identity theft can occur while you are completing an online transaction or shopping in-person at your favorite store. If you are shopping online, update your computer’s spam filters and anti-virus software. Only enter personal and financial information on secure, encrypted sites that begin with https:// since the “s” stands for secure. You should also pay with a credit card, which will provide the greatest buyer protection if you have to dispute any charges.
·Don’t fall for a phishing scam in disguise. If you receive an email claiming issues with processing your order, shipping merchandise or asking you to confirm financial and personal information before an order can be shipped, consider it a red flag. Do not respond to the email, but contact the number on the website where the purchase was actually made to confirm any issues or problems.
·If an offer sounds too good to be true, think twice! If you encounter a website or vendor who is selling hard-to-find items or designer merchandise at an extreme discount, there may be a catch. The product could be a cheap knock-off of the real brand, be a different brand altogether or not even exist in the first place.
·Understand your legal rights. U.S. law requires that all orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods are not shipped on time, you have the option to cancel the order altogether and demand a refund.
Whether you head out to the stores on Thanksgiving, wake up early on Black Friday, support your favorite small businesses on Small Business Saturday or purchase with the click of a mouse on Cyber Monday, always take the time to shop safely. The holidays can be an expensive and chaotic time of year, so start the season by shopping with trust with your BBB.