Tips for Making Black Friday Not So Scary
The term "Black Friday" sends shivers down my spine in fear and excitement. Fear that if I don't go shopping the day after Thanksgiving, I might be missing the deal of a lifetime. And excitement because the deal of a lifetime is just waiting for me. Some years I've ventured out and other years I've just nursed my food hangover. This year, I'm due for a Black Friday adventure so I asked Todd Marks, an editor at Consumer Reports magazine, for some advice. Here's what he had to say:
So is Black Friday going to be crazy this year?
Of course it is. It's become ritualistic. It doesn't even matter whether it's a year where they're predicting huge economic windfalls or a year where they're predicting people not spending as much as they had in previous years. It's become ingrained in our culture. It's like the Super Bowl when even non-football fans watch the game. Not only are people starting their shopping earlier, the sale activity has begun very early this year. That suggests there's going to be a lot of wheeling and dealing this year.
Are Black Friday sales for real?
They are real to the extent that they're offering substantial or tangible benefits to the consumer, be it free shipping or discounts for shopping at certain parts of the day.
So what are your best tips for those of us crazy enough to venture out on Black Friday?
• Do your homework to make sure you're going to get a good deal. Check sites like FatWallet.com, BlackFridayAds.com, GottaDeal.com, DealTaker.com. A lot of them will have Black Friday ads, coupons for extra savings and what the specials are at various chains. You can also sign up for e-mails at various stores to find out about the good deals coming. You can find out which [items] come with rebates and which [stores] are offering free shipping. Another site is CouponCabin. They feature promotional codes which can offer shoppers more savings.
• Save a trip to the store by checking out the retailer Web site. A lot of them offer consumers the chance to purchase the item online and pick it up locally to save on shipping fees.
• Weigh the risks and rewards of pre-dawn sales and midnight madness sales. They want to sell a few items at or below cost to get you into the store. Their goal is for you to purchase more profitable merchandise.
• Don't assume that the best deals are on Black Friday. It's really too early to tell how deeply the retailers are going to be forced to cut prices to boost the bottom line and get stuff off the shelves. Many merchants are reacting to the intense competition by cutting prices up to 50 percent and then dangling bonus coupons for shoppers to shop at slow parts of the day. Don't be fooled. It's not as though if you don't shop on black Friday you'll be forced to pay full price if you delay shopping a bit.
• Ask the retailer if they have a guaranteed lowest price policy. That would entitle you to a refund for the difference that you paid if the item is available for less within a specified time period.
•Arrive at your favorite store early before the doors open. The nice thing for early birds is they get to choose from an entire range of merchandise before its been picked through.
• If you're planning a big ticket purchase at a major retailer, you can get savings through instant charge cards. They usually offer an extra 10 percent off. Use the card for this one purchase, pay the balance off quickly and cut up the card.
• Be aware of return policies. Retailers are becoming stricter when it comes to enforcing the rules. Get gift receipts. If you don't have one, you'll get a store credit or a gift card for the lowest price the item sold for which may not be what you paid.
• Don't open packages of electronics items that you're really not sure you want. Restocking fees can be 5 to 25 percent.
Are you going to be out there on Black Friday?
I may make mine purple Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, while everyone's at the grocery store.
So what are your tips for shopping on Black Friday?
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