A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Buyer beware on Black Friday sales; are they the real deal?

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By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Black Friday marks the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season, and in years past, that meant long lines at brick-and-mortar locations on the Friday after Thanksgiving. While this is still true, recent studies show that there’s a shift in the way shoppers are researching and buying, as well as the way stores are advertising.

Many people still use Black Friday as a way to save money on holiday gifts. According to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, nearly 151 million shoppers hit the stores last year and spent $289.19 each – down 3.5% from 2015’s average of $299.60.

Many of the best deals and discounts were online, and many shoppers found that a few of the deals from Black Friday carried over to Cyber Monday. However, this year’s Black Friday spending is expected to surpass last year’s $289.19 by 3.6 percent.

No matter how you intend to find the best price or plan to save a few dollars when it comes buying gifts for family and friends, be alert to deals on low-budget pieces that retailers are simply trying to unload quickly. Just because a product is positioned a certain way doesn’t mean that’s what you’re actually getting. Research the advertised company before adding them to your Black Friday plan; read the reviews of their products, look at their sales fliers, and compare their prices before making a decision. Consult bbb.org for additional information about their business practices.

When considering a major purchase like electronics, appliances, or furniture, carefully read the fine print to see if there are restrictions on the sale. Some stores may only honor a sale ad during a certain time frame, or they may limit the number of items people can purchase. Before buying an expensive piece, ask if there is a warranty included or if you need to purchase additional coverage.

Make sure to keep all of your receipts related to the purchase in case there are any issues.

Because of the frenzy of shopping in the store on Black Friday, some shoppers may prefer to take advantage of online deals that are only available that day. BBB encourages online shoppers to be cautious and to verify that they are truly on the website of the retailer that is having the sale. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website.

One way to save money from stores you where you regularly shop is to sign up for their email alerts. Many stores release their best Black Friday deals early to their email list, but it is important to check that emails you receive are in fact from the brick and mortar store where you typically shop.

Phishing emails sent from scammers acting like a legitimate company are just one way they can gather your personal information and ruin your Black Friday experience.

Before braving Black Friday to complete your holiday shopping list, consult bbb.org to gather information on the businesses where you’re planning to shop and find tips on how to spot the real deal.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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