Last updated: November 26. 2013 12:00PM - 412 Views

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Have you started planning for Black Friday - that special shopping day after Thanksgiving when you can find all of the “deals?” Remember, all deals are not created equal and the fine print is often the most important thing! Before you head out for the holiday shopping frenzy, the Better Business Bureau offers these tips:


Tip 1 – Know before You Go. Many retailers will release their Black Friday deals online, in social media and other publications. Make a list of where the sales are located, mark your gift priorities, and compare prices to plan your day. Build up a coupon collection, and remember to bring ads with you on Black Friday just in case the price is not what you expected.


Tip 2 – Don’t Fall for False Advertising. Despite BBBs effort to advance trust in the marketplace, some companies will resort to advertisements that are untrue or misleading. Black Friday advertising will be abundant and BBB urges consumers to watch for red flags. Many consumers have experienced frustration and lost money they can’t afford to lose after being lured by prices too good to be true. Bait and switch ads designed to bring you in but push you toward more expensive items, fine print return policies, final sales, and deals that end before the day is done are all ads you may experience seeing. To protect yourself on Black Friday, BBB advises consumers not to believe all they see or hear without doing their own research to confirm the claims being made.


Tip 3 – Maximize Advance Alerts. Do you have favorite retailers? Sign up for their email alerts and “like” their Facebook page. BBB Accredited Businesses and other stores are working to reward your loyalty and you may get special offers.


Tip 4 – Set up Your Reward Cards. Black Friday deals may have strict restrictions with no sharing allowed. Make sure you have reward cards with your favorite stores and keep them with you.


Tip 5 – Shop with Trust. If you find a deal – don’t just jump at the first chance to get it. BBB recommends doing your research on the business – know how long they’ve been in business, look into their customer service track record, check them out at bbb.org. And, check on their return policy too.


Tip 6 – Comparative Shop Online. There are dozens of Black Friday websites that claim to capture the best deals around and they can really help you do your comparative shopping online. Before you pick your favorite site, BBB recommends consumers find a reputable site that’s not a fly-by-night operation by checking them out at bbb.org and see what others say about the site through an online search. When shopping, confirm the site is secure and be certain you have a phone number and physical address in case there are problems.


Tip 7 – Look for QR Codes. QR stands for Quick Response codes and they’re popping up in many ads and print materials. Several BBB Accredited Businesses use them to help you Start with Trust and they can bring you directly to a special offer or a BBB Business Review. Before you can scan one and view the offer - you’ll have to install a QR app reader on your smart phone.


Tip 8 - Shop Small. Save your gas money and your time when you stay close to home. BBB is encouraging consumers to support small businesses in their community on Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday. Check your neighborhood retailers for their weekend deals and gain some goodwill by knowing you’ve done your part to help them thrive during the holidays.


Tip 9 - Check Return and Exchange Policies. All bets can change for Black Friday deals, which means the store policies can change too. Make sure you know what the return and exchange policy is for your Black Friday special and that a return is even possible – especially if you’re buying online. Final sales, a very short return window (like before December 25th), or in-store or online only credit could leave you with a deal gone wrong. Some stores also charge restocking fees.


Tip 10 – Shop Safely. While getting a deal is important, there are ways to shop safely without putting yourself or your wallet in jeopardy. BBB advises consumers to take their time and plan ahead for the best rewards.


· Make a list and prioritize where you should go and when.


· Bring friends into the mix to help sort through your options, two cars can go in two directions making it easier to get limited quantities and some pals will even wait in line as you trade off shopping in the stores.


· Remember to get gift receipts and keep them organized for those moments when the thought wasn’t quite enough.


· Keep all receipts so you can compare them with what you purchased when your monthly statement comes in.


· Keep your personal information to yourself and be mindful of where you are laying your credit card, driver’s license, wallet, purse, etc. Don’t leave a sales counter without them!


· Confirm the security of your online purchases. Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, BBB recommends right clicking anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will revel if the site is not encrypted.


· Pay with a credit card. Under Federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.


For more tips, go to www.bbb.org or call 1-800-388-2222.


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