There are a few important lessons to remember before you embark on a shopping treasure hunt journey
Black Friday is coming and you’re all excited before the biggest sale of the year. But don’t get carried away by the shopping craze.
Track and compare prices
Don’t fall for the promotional letters with special offers. Most of the sellers are not too honest and they greatly exaggerate the size of the discount. Others may increase the price temporarily beforehand so that they can impress you with the big deal on sale day. In fact, 85% of the products sold on Black Friday were available for the same price or cheaper earlier in the year, according to the study of the consumer group Which?.
If you’re looking for a specific item, it makes sense to add it on a price tracker a few months before the ‘big sale’. You may discover that there are great deals throughout the entire year. Sometimes, you may get a better bargain earlier, during other sale-periods. For clothing, the biggest discounts may come when there are only a few sizes left in stock. Mid-season sales will also come in handy. Tech and devices are usually sold cheap when they are the last items displayed in stores or new models are coming along. Anyway, don’t think that all Black Friday deals are the best deals of the year.
There are useful web tools you can use to check the pricing history for various products. This way, you can estimate whether the ‘sale’ price really represents a good bargain. For instance, CamelCamelCamel or Keepa will help you to compare historic price ranges on Amazon. Others, like PriceRunner, Priceviewer, Capital One Shopping, CheapShark, etc cover multiple popular shopping platforms.
These same tools and a bunch of other great resources will also help you to compare present prices at numerous retailers, look for coupons, and find the best deals. Remember that some stores may offer lower item prices along with expensive delivery service. On the contrary, some retailers may give smaller discounts but supplement them with free shipping. Comparison tools will save your money and time and include all those factors.
Do preliminary research
Black Friday promotions are very pressing in nature. The offer time is very limited and the most popular goods get sold out very fast. Sometimes shopping platforms can’t cope with the flood of buyers and slow down or experience outages. Thus, you shouldn’t waste time on reading reviews or exploring unknown brands during the sale period. At the same time, thorough research is important, especially if you’re planning a big purchase. Do it beforehand.
Be careful with affordable brands you see for the first time. It’s not that all of them are bad, but you have to check if they’re worth buying. Cheap prices often equal poor quality. When you read the reviews about unfamiliar retailers, be careful not just to check the product’s details, but also the information about customer service, returns, shipping delays, etc.
Make a list
Many shopping platforms allow and even encourage you to add items to a wish list before the sale. That may help retailers to stock up their inventory accordingly. At some stores, there are even long-term shopping carts. Those will help you to choose the size, colors, and other item modifications calmly before the shopping rush starts. If you have such pre-purchase options, make use of them before thousands of customers rush to the online checkout. This way, on the due date, you’ll have a shortcut list of the items you want and need. If they’re already in the shopping cart, you can immediately start purchasing at lower prices.
In addition, you can prepare a list of retailers that sell your chosen products at similar prices. If something is quickly sold out at one place, you’ll find a substitute in one click. Besides, some retailers run promotions through the whole of November or at least a few weeks before Black Friday itself. Checking your wish lists at several stores may help you get the sale items earlier.
Look for cashback
Sales time is not only an opportunity to save money through lower prices. Many stores offer reward points returned to your loyalty card. Separate online resources like Quidco or Topcashback also offer cashback on selected purchases. Moreover, credit and debit card providers also have their reward systems. While you splurge, you may get additional air miles, retail vouchers or money off your credit card statement. Some credit cards even allow their owners to earn crypto as they spend. Cashback offers are usually more generous if you buy items at partner retailers.
Naturally, cashback shouldn’t be your main motivation for buying something. However, checking those offers may bring you nice bonuses besides the desired products.
Explore omnichannel options
Many people miss out on really generous deals because they don’t want to go to crowded stores or due to website crashes. Bricks-and-mortar, online, and mobile shopping experiences can and should be wisely combined. For instance, you can go to the physical shopping location to try out desired items beforehand, scan their QR-codes via the brand app, and add them to your cart to buy during the sales season. Or else, you can try items on virtually with AR tools. Consider registering at the store’s online resources early. Firstly, you’ll save precious time for shopping itself. Secondly, you’ll get member-exclusive saving offers, special in-app discounts, and live chat support.
Some retailers will reserve your product for a period of up to seven days. This means you can order it online, then go and collect it at a quiet time without unnecessary hassle. If they go even further in omnichannel strategies, you can even get mobile check-in for product pickup, alongside kerbside and drive-through pickup options.
Others provide try-before-you-buy services, which allows customers to pay only after they’ve received the items, checked them out and decided to buy.
Mind the return policies
Some shopaholics are so excited by endless promotions that they end up with a bunch of unnecessary orders and credit card debts. Depending on the store policies, you may return some of the purchases you regret. In addition, many buyers use Black Friday promotions to shop for Christmas presents. Sometimes, those don’t exactly fit and need exchanging. Keep the receipts just in case.
Usually, online orders have more return/refund options and a longer return period. However, it may be harder to prove the item is faulty if you don’t check it at the moment of delivery. Although most trusted retailers extend their return time throughout the holiday season, items purchased on familiar platforms through third-party sellers may be subject to different return policies.
Nobody likes to read the fine print, but in that case it would be useful. Check whether the policy entitles you to your actual money back or just a store credit/exchange. Double-check if the return/exchange policy has any exceptions regarding items on sale.
Please, mind the cancellation policies too. Some online orders are confirmed automatically while others require additional phone calls from the store employees. In case you rush to order an item, but spot better deals later, you’d better choose options which allow postponing final purchase. However, if you’ve already done all the comparisons, immediate ordering is a good option for you.
Beware of scammers
Finally, don’t forget that con artists always prey on human greed and the pressure of urgency. Limited sale offers are on their radar too. It’s smart to be cautious toward online ads showing low-price deals on those hard-to-find items. Such links may be phishing scams and they’ll steal your sensitive information. Never open suspicious emails and messages. Remember if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
You may also get an email or other message telling you there’s an issue with an item you ordered. If you don’t recognise the item and know you never ordered it, don’t open any links or download any attachments. Such phishing emails are meant to trick you into providing your bank login credentials, or turning over other private information.
Stick to reputable retailers. If you get random promotion ads from unknown sellers, check for their physical address, a customer service phone number, and a professional-looking site. Only buy from secure sites with SSL encryption, with URLs starting with https (rather than http) and a lock icon in the corner.
Beware if a seller asks you to pay with a gift card. Those are non-refundable and often used for fraudulent schemes. This may happen on auction sites and should be treated as a red flag. Treat gift cards like cash, never give out your gift card number or PIN, and use them only with the issuing merchant. General gift cards, such as a Mastercard or Visa gift card, should be applied only at trusted retailers.