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Savvy shopping tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday

From the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia:

The official holiday shopping season is nearly here and BBB serving Central Virginia offers these tips to make your shopping experience productive (and maybe even enjoyable).

Black Friday, November 26

Black Friday is traditionally the single busiest shopping day of the year, arriving a little earlier this year, with many stores already advertising Black Friday prices. If you do decide to shop in person on Black Friday, these tips can help.

Make the most of Black Friday deals. Start with a list of items and use sale flyers and promotions to determine which store has the best price. Set a budget and stick with it before heading out.

Read the fine print. Some retailers may offer an additional percentage off the purchase, but could exclude certain deals or items such as “door busters.” Watch for companies boasting a high percentage off; the item may be “75% off,” but the original price could be inflated. Carefully check the price tags, terms, and conditions. Research online using a secure WIFI connection to see if competitors have the item at a better price.

Plan out the excursion. Sometimes it’s not necessary to wait to see what deals will be offered on Black Friday. Retailers often will release Black Friday flyers weeks ahead of time, so consumers can plan out their shopping spree.  Make a map of the stores to visit and what items are at which store. Some retailors only honor sale ads during a certain time frame, or on certain days, and could limit the amount of deeply discounted items available for purchase.

Sign-up for email alerts. Many stores release their best Black Friday deals and exclusive coupons to people who have subscribed to their emails. Sign up ahead of the holiday season, and then unsubscribe afterwards if needed.

Do your research. Read product reviews on extremely discounted items. It could be a cheaper model or brand advertised, and not what was expected. Check BBB.org’s business profiles of the stores and read what other customers have experienced.

Know the return policy and warranty information. Pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs, and warranties to the person who will use the item. Gift receipts are an easy way for recipients to return or exchange a gift if it’s not just right, but make sure the item is able to be returned before purchasing.

Stay Safe.  Follow CDC guidelines to healthy and safe while in the store.

Small Business Saturday, November 27

After the big Black Friday sales, check out the small, local and independent businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small businesses and all they do for their communities.

BBB offers the following tips to “Shop Small” on Small Business Saturday:

Get involved. Many communities are hosting special events to celebrate and support the businesses that make your hometown unique. Find out what local events are happening in your area on the Small Business Saturday website, or visit your local chamber of commerce or merchants’ association.

 

Sign-up for email alerts. Save a few dollars on your holiday budget by signing up for Small Business Saturday email specials offered by the merchants in your area. Keep in mind, you’ll probably get additional deals throughout the year, not just during the holidays.

 

Research the shops nearest to you. Find out what past customers have to say by reading reviews online, such as those on BBB.org, and learn what shops are participating by going to ShopSmall.org.

 

Connect with businesses on social media. Many small businesses will advertise their sales via social media. Use #ShopSmall to search for information and share activities.

 

Invite your friends and family. Turn this shopping event into a “friends and family” extravaganza! Visit favorite local stores or explore a new one. Take time to get to know the business owners and local community officials, and get a head start on the holidays while enjoying time with loved ones.

 

Don’t just shop small, eat small! Many people think that shopping at local retail stores is the only way to participate. However, small independently owned restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops would love to invite in new customers while they’re out and about.

 

Share your experience. Take a selfie at your favorite small business. Share it on social media with the hashtags #BBB and #ShopSmall to tell the world you’re a big fan of small businesses. Leave a review on BBB.org. Remember, these shops are open all year as well!

 

Cyber Monday, November 29

Cyber Monday is one of the year’s top shopping days. When hunting for deals, be wary of misleading ads, lookalike websites, and untrustworthy sellers.

Be wary of misleading advertisements, lookalike websites, and untrustworthy sellers. The following tips will help you shop online this holiday season, so you can achieve maximum savings while keeping your personal information and hard-earned money secure.

Beware of false advertising and phony websites. If a company is selling the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for false advertising and keep a close eye on the web address in your browser. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer. Make sure websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers.

Shop with trustworthy sellers on secure sites only. Be wary of businesses you aren’t familiar with. Check their BBB Business Profile on BBB.org, look at the rating, and read customer reviews. In addition, be sure any web page you purchase from is secure. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS:// and not just HTTP://. Never put personal or credit card information in forms on non-secure web pages.

Keep your antivirus software up to date.  Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it is up to date. This will help you to avoid non-secure websites and pop-up phishing scams, and help keep your personal information safe.

Price check before you buy. Dozens of online retailers will claim they have the best price on an item, but their offers can be misleading.  Do your homework by comparing prices. Remember that the best deal may not be the real deal.

Take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. Check your credit card rewards program for special point offers that could add up on Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays. Make purchases using loyalty programs; many major retailers offer them.

Use your credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don’t offer this same protection. Never make purchases with online sellers by giving them prepaid debit cards or wiring them money.

Understand return policies. Online store policies may change for Cyber Monday offers. Read the fine print before you buy. Understand the return or exchange policy for the specific item you would like to purchase. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for “final sale” or “closeout” items. Make sure to get gift receipts, so the recipient can return or exchange the item if necessary.

Watch out for phishing scams. Busy schedules and increased purchases make it easier to miss – and fall victim to – a phishing scam. Look out for unsolicited emails, texts, calls, or letters. These messages may claim you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you need to do is click on a link or give up your personal information. Avoid phishing scams by ignoring suspicious correspondence and calls from unfamiliar phone numbers.

Giving Tuesday, November 30

The spirit of the holidays means giving to favorite causes and the less fortunate. Check out these tips and do your research before donating. Taking place on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Giving Tuesday movement has helped raise more than $1 billion for online charitable giving worldwide since its creation in 2012.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance is sharing the following tips to help donors give wisely and make the most of their generosity this holiday season and all year round:

Watch out for name similarities. When charities seek support for the same cause, their names are often similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity.

Review the website carefully. A responsible charity will include the following facts on its website: its mission and programs, measurable goals, and concrete criteria that describe its achievements. You should also be able to find information on their finances. Keep in mind, the type of work a charity does will affect its costs.

Avoid on-the-spot donation decisions from unfamiliar organizations. The holidays bring a higher frequency of donation requests outside public locations. Don’t succumb to pressure to make an immediate giving decision. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.

Be wary of emotional appeals. Marketers have been known to exploit the holidays to make emotional pleas to donors. Instead of making an impulse decision based on emotion, do some research first to verify that your selected charity operates ethically.

Check with state charity officials. In many states, charities are required to register with the office of the attorney general before soliciting. Checking your state’s appropriate office is an easy way to detect if an organization is legitimate or not. You can find this information on the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) website.

Avoid charities that don’t disclose. Although participation is voluntary, charities that don’t disclose any of the requested information to BBB WGA raise a critical red flag for donors. Visit Give.org to find out if your selected charity is nondisclosure.

Rely on standards-based evaluations. Charities can demonstrate they are trustworthy by agreeing to in-depth evaluations such as the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. Get free access to charity reports at Give.org.

Research tax status. Don’t assume every organization claiming to do good is a tax-exempt charity. You can check an organization’s tax status with the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool. Also, make sure your contribution is tax deductible.

For More Information

 

For general information on how to avoid scams, visit BBB.org/AvoidScams.  For more advice, read BBB’s tips on online shopping. If you’ve spotted an online scam, report it to BBB ScamTracker.

Read more BBB Holiday Tips at BBB.org/holiday.

About the BBB serving Central Virginia:

BBB serving Central Virginia serves Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, scam warnings, consumer and business education, and charity review.

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