BBB offers tips to Black Friday shoppers
Thanksgiving is almost here, and this year Black Friday shopping will begin earlier than ever — kicking off Thanksgiving night at some retail outlets.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering tips to people planning on taking advantage of Black Friday — traditionally the day after Thanksgiving — sales offers.
“Black Friday only seems to get bigger — and start earlier — each year,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “We try to remind people to plan ahead, be mindful of their budgets, and always be clear on store return policies. On big ticket items especially, there may be restocking fees if a consumer wishes to make a return.”
Black Friday shoppers should also be sure to keep these tips in mind:
■ Getting the real deal. Do you know if a sale is really a sale? Many times companies boast “70 percent off,” but 70 percent off what? It always pays to comparison shop. If a company is advertising a “Going out of Business” sale, don’t automatically assume they are offering the best prices in town. Take the time to check prices on the same items at other stores.
■ Search for Black Friday ads ahead of time. Newspapers often have coupons that give discounts for Black Friday. Black Friday ads are also posted on the Internet. Some sites post ads for Black Friday before they are published.
■ Return policies, restocking fees and refunds. Ask for the store’s return policy before you make your purchase. Companies are not required to give you your money back, but they need to post their return policy prominently near the cashier. Also, always ask about restocking fees, and save your receipts in one place so you don’t lose them. Many companies will require you to produce a receipt for a return. Ask for a gift receipt.
■ Gift cards. Gift cards regularly top consumers’ wish lists. Federal rules govern gift card sales, and those rules state:
• An inactivity fee cannot be charged until the card has not been used for 12 months.
• Gift cards cannot expire for at least 5 years.
• No more than one fee (of any kind) can be charged to the cardholder in a single month.
• Information printed on the card must disclose fees and expiration date and provide a toll-free phone number or website where you can get more information.
• A one-time fee may be charged when you buy the card, though this generally only applies to gift cards purchased through your credit card company, not those purchased directly from stores and restaurants.
These rules do not cover reloadable cards, such as prepaid phone cards or debit cards from the big credit card companies. Rebate and loyalty reward programs are also exempt. If you receive a gift card, you should redeem it promptly if possible.
■ Check out the company. Visit bbb.org or call 800-646-6222 to obtain free business reviews. BBB business reviews have been optimized for smartphones.
Lastly, the BBB states consumers are encouraged to have fun, be safe and advises them to remember, there will be many more sales through the holiday season.