Story last updated at 11/25/2009 - 12:04 pm
As Black Friday-the day after Thanksgiving-approaches, retailers are serving up offers to pull customers into the store for one of the busiest sale days of the year. Consumers focused on finding the perfect gift do not usually have misleading advertising, scams and understanding purchase details on the forefront of their minds. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington offers the following tips for holiday shoppers:
Spend wisely. Set a realistic budget for holiday shopping, and stick to it. Make a shopping list of gifts to avoid impulse buying. Keep track of purchases to ensure there is enough spending money in an account when shopping.
Look for sale details. Some advertised sales only last for part of Black Friday. Make sure to understand the timeframe of the sale and any specifics or limitations. Keep in mind, holiday "sales" and "markdowns" are sometimes not the bargain they appear to be, so comparative shop. Conditions of an offer must be listed in the ad or coupon. If an offer is misrepresented see the store manager.
Gift cards aren't always the ideal gift. Find out if the gift card has an expiration date and if it can be used online. Be careful when purchasing a gift card from a retailer that may be closing or has filed for bankruptcy, as it may not be redeemable in the future.
Understand refund and exchange policies. Some stores give refunds or issue store credits, but others consider all sales final. If the store issues refunds, ask if there is a return time limit. Be aware, some businesses have different return policies for sale and clearance items. Get a gift receipt and enclose it with the present. Don't remove electronics or similar products from boxes before wrapping, as the original packaging may be required for a return.
Get layaway policies in writing. Understand time limits and additional fees.
Check the price. When making a purchase, make sure items run up with the correct price at the register. Keep receipts and warrantee information for the duration you have the purchase.
Limit store credit cards. Many stores offer discounts for signing up for a store credit card. Know your spending limits, a late or missed payment on one of these cards can make the interest rate jump from zero to 20 percent or more, outweighing the discount.
Remember safety. Anticipate traffic and be careful in crowds. Never leave a wallet, credit card or purse on a counter or in an unattended shopping cart. Do not get overloaded with packages. It is also a good idea to shop with a companion or ask for a security escort to your car.
Review financial statements. Credit cards often offer more protection against fraudulent charges than debit cards. Notify your financial institution immediately if your credit/debit card or checking account has unfamiliar charges.
Report problems. Consumers who have a marketplace problem they can't work it out with the business, can file a complaint at http://www.bbb.org/. Check your statements and beware of unauthorized purchases and fees. Notify your financial institution immediately if your credit/debit card or checking account has charges that you didn't make.
The Better Business Bureau is a not-for-profit organization funded by Better Business Bureau Accredited Businesses. The BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. For more information about the services and products provided by your BBB, call (907) 562-0704 or visit http://www.bbb.org/.