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BBB tip: How to shop the Black Friday sales

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Black Friday, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, is set to begin on Friday, November 25 this year. As consumers prepare to take advantage of the deals and discounts on offer, the rising costs of many products due to inflation and supply chain shortages can have an effect on buying behavior. Instead of raising the alarm in brave crowds for deeply discounted items, dedicated shoppers can search for deals online, which often allows for more flexibility to buy compared to the best price. With an increase in consumer spending on online purchases, the Better Business Bureau reminds shoppers to stay aware of scammers who tend to capitalize on market trends.

Every year, BBB Scam Tracker receives an influx of reports during the holiday shopping season from consumers falling victim to fraudulent sellers, counterfeit items, or misleading advertising regarding product quality. Scammers often appeal to shoppers by offering massive discounts on brand name products under the guise of a Black Friday deal, often including product photos that do not reflect what the customer is receiving.

Last year, BBB issued a warning about a Fort Worth-based company that was selling products that appeared to be Beats by Dre headphones, but numerous customer complaints described the poor quality of the product. The company itself leveraged the credibility attached to the brand by calling itself Beats by Dr. Dre, confusing consumers who thought they were getting a bargain on a product known for its quality. Although the website operated by this company has since been taken down, scammers often use this tactic for a variety of other products. BBB’s 2021 online shopping scam report found that shoes and clothing are the most common counterfeit items, with Nike being the most frequently used brand. Other top brands include NFL apparel, Apple gadgets, Louis Vuitton handbags, Tiffany jewelry and LEGO toys.

If you decide to shop on Black Friday, the Better Business Bureau offers these tips to make your shopping experience productive, scam-free, and successful.

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

Read the fine print. Some retailers may offer an additional percentage on the purchase, but exclude specific offers or items such as “patio doors”. Watch for companies with a high percentage discount; the item may be “75% off”, but the retailer may inflate the original price. Check price tags, terms and conditions carefully. Research online using a secure Wi-Fi connection to see if competitors are offering the item at a better price.

Plan the trip. Sometimes you don’t have to wait to see what deals retailers have on Black Friday; often they release Black Friday flyers weeks in advance so consumers can plan their shopping spree. Make a map of which stores to visit and what items are in which store. Some retailers only honor sale announcements during a specific time period or on certain days, and may limit the number of deeply discounted items available for purchase.

Sign up for our email alerts. Many stores are offering their best Black Friday deals and exclusive coupons to people who have subscribed to their emails. Subscribe before the holiday season, then unsubscribe afterwards, if necessary.

Do your research. Read product reviews on deeply discounted items. It could be an advertised cheaper model or brand and not what the buyer expects. Check BBB.org for store company profiles and read what other customers have experienced.

Consumers expect quality from things like shoes, clothes, and jewelry. When researching a popular brand or luxury item, pay close attention to its price and check with official retailers to determine the likelihood of it being offered at the advertised price. If a product is listed at significantly higher prices at authorized retailers or on its website than stated, it is more than likely not genuine.

Read the website and look for grammatical errors. Typographical errors indicate that the site was created quickly and may not reflect the typical brand message you would expect. Grammatical errors in public-facing communications are rare for branded articles that typically have the resources to employ extensive marketing departments.

Know the return policy and warranty information. Pass 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 fair, but make sure the gift recipient can return the item before purchasing.