BBB Tip: How to shop Black Friday sales

Black Friday, traditionally the single busiest shopping day of the year, is set to begin on Friday, Nov. 25 of this year. As consumers prepare to take advantage of the deals and discount offered, increased costs of many products driven by inflation and supply chain shortages may make an effect on shopping behavior. Instead of setting the alarm to brave crowds for deeply discounted items, dedicated shoppers may look for deals online which often allows greater flexibility to comparatively shop for the best price. With an increase in consumer spending on online purchases, Better Business Bureau reminds shoppers to remain aware of scammers who tend to capitalize on marketplace trends.

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

Last year, BBB issued a warning about a Fort Worth-based business that sold products that appeared to be Beats by Dre headphones, but numerous customer complaints described the poor quality of the product. The business itself leveraged the credibility attached to the name-brand by calling itself Beats by Dr. Dre, confusing consumers who thought they were getting a good deal on a product known for its quality. While the website operated by this company has since been shut down, scammers often use this tactic for a variety of other products. BBB’s 2021 Online Purchase Scams Report found that footwear and apparel are the most common counterfeit items, with Nike as the most frequently used brand. Other top brands include NFL clothing, Apple gadgets, Louis Vuitton handbags, Tiffany jewelry and LEGO toys.

If you decide to shop on Black Friday, 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 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 exclude specific deals or items such as “doorbusters.” Watch for companies boasting a high percentage off; the item may be “75% off,” but the retailer could inflate the original price. Carefully check the price tags, terms and conditions. Research online using a secure Wi-Fi connection to see if competitors have the item at a better price.

Plan out the excursion. Sometimes it’s unnecessary to wait to see what retailers will offer deals on Black Friday; often, they will release Black Friday flyers weeks ahead of time so that 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 specific time frame or on certain days, and may 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 afterward, if needed.

Do your research. Read product reviews on highly discounted items. It could be a cheaper model or brand advertised and not what the buyer expects. Check for Business Profiles of the stores and read what other customers have experienced.

Consumers expect quality from things like shoes, clothing and jewelry. When searching for a name-brand or popular 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 is shown, it is more than likely not authentic.

Read the website and look for grammatical errors. Typographical errors indicate the site was put together quickly and may not reflect the typical brand messaging you would expect. Grammatical mistakes in public-facing communications are rare for brand-name items that typically have the resources to employ extensive marketing departments.

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 gift recipient can return the item before purchasing.