BBB tips for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping

Pensacola, Fla. – Black Friday, traditionally, the single busiest shopping day of the year, is going to look a bit different in 2020. Instead of setting an alarm to brave crowds for deeply discounted items, dedicated shoppers will be looking for deals online. That’s if they haven’t already finished their holiday shopping.

People are predicted to spend just under $1,000 this holiday season on gifts, according to the National Retail Federation. With the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, this amount is slightly less than the 2019 holiday season.

If you do decide to shop on Black Friday, Better Business Bureau offers these tips to make your shopping experience productive and maybe even enjoyable:

Stay Safe. Follow CDC guidelines for a healthy and safe experience while in stores.

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 retailers 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.

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 for 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.

Visit BBB.org to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, report a scam, read tips, follow us on social media, and more!

Cyber Monday has become one of the top shopping days of the year. But like so much else in 2020, it’s likely to look different this year. Holiday online sales started in October with Amazon Prime Day, and many Black Friday deals have moved online in hopes of reducing in store crowds. In fact, according to an Accenture survey, 75 percent of consumers say they’ll do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year. That’s up from 65 percent last year.

But online shopping – even on Cyber Monday – has risks. 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 nonsecure 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 have 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.

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.