The Better Business Bureau (BBB) this week is advising shoppers—both online and in-person—to be aware of scams and plan ahead to make the most of Black Friday shopping.
As with last year, the BBB expects more people to avoid crowds by shopping online. Some big box stores, including Target, have cut their weekend hours by closing their doors altogether on Thanksgiving Day.
Meanwhile, online retailers have been ramping up for brisk business. Many have launched early Black Friday sales.
Shoppers may find, however, that this year isn’t quite the same as holiday shopping seasons of yore.
While supply chain snags and slow-downs have decreased, they’re still a factor in the quantity and types of goods in stores. It’s also a factor in the higher prices for some of those must-have gifts.
According to a recent analysis, “the holiday shopping season is predicted to have 4.7 million packages a day beyond what the system can possibly absorb or deliver. Storing these packages for even a short period costs money.”
Online scams and tips to avoid them
Experts at the BBB said low supply and high prices is an invitation for online scammers who set up fraudulent storefronts and sell counterfeit products to unsuspecting consumers. Shoes and clothing are top items for counterfeiters, along with luggage, collectibles and medical or nutrition products.
Pets and pet supplies are also a top scam.
The BBB suggests checking the reliability of a company at its website if there’s a question as to whether it’s a scammer. It also suggests following these tips:
- Don’t be enticed by prices that are much lower than most other online retailers offering the same product. Those items are likely not the real product.
- Read the website and look for grammatical errors. Sites for fraudulent stores are often put together quickly and without the spell-checks and marketing reviews real online retailers use.
- Read the customer reviews. Too many positive reviews can signal a fake storefront.
- Look for contact information, such as a phone number, email address or online chat function. Or, see if there’s a physical location for the business. If none of these exist, beware.
Making in-person shopping less of a chore
The BBB suggests planning ahead and doing some homework before heading out to the stores on Black Friday. That includes making a list, researching deals, setting a budget and then mapping out which stores to visit and at what times. Some deals are only available at certain times of the day.
BBB experts say some deals aren’t really deals after all. Check around for prices; some stores may offer deep discounts on items, but the original prices could be inflated making that sale price not too different from what other retailers are offering.
Reading the fine print is also key, said experts. Product and retailer reviews along with warranty and return policy details can help you weed out shops or products not worth your time and money.
There’s also always the option to skip Black Friday shopping altogether.
“Black Friday is notoriously a high-pressure shopping situation, but that can make you more vulnerable to scams, overspending, and purchasing low-quality products,” a BBB spokesperson said. “Keep a cool head and remember it’s better to miss a deal than lose your money!”
Shopping from locally owned businesses is also a great option.