“Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, is known to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Blockbuster savings entice consumers to spend their hard-earned money. Every year, the Office of the Attorney General releases tips to help Washington consumers arm themselves with information to be savvy shoppers as they walk through the mall doors:
- Always plan your spending. Create a budget and list of specific items and people you’re gifting for. This prevents overspending and helps kick the urge to treat yourself while you’re out shopping for others.
- Reconsider gift cards. Retailers love to sell them and they seem like a great idea for that person on your list that is tough to buy for, but before you pull the trigger, consider the likelihood of that person using the gift card soon. Gift cards that aren’t used right away are often never used. Know the terms and conditions of the gift card. For example, retail gift cards in Washington don’t expire or incur fees. That is not always true of gift cards offered by credit card companies such as Visa or MasterCard. Be sure to read the small print on the back of the gift card before purchasing.
- Are free trials really free? Often when buying electronics there are offers included for free trials of services. These can turn into monthly payments that are hard to get out of or even go undetected for months.
- Keep receipts and packaging. Include gift receipts when you give the present.
- Know the return policies. Keep in mind that a return with a gift receipt may fall under a different policy than a return with the original receipt. For example, some stores will give you store credit only for a gift receipt.
- Safety first. Always check to ensure that an item hasn’t been recalled when gifting for a child.
- Bring ads with you. Be sure that you’re only charged what is advertised.
- Check your receipts for errors. Always be sure that you aren’t overcharged. If you notice that you have been, request a refund immediately.
Happy hunting, bargain shoppers! As always, if you believe you’ve been the victim of a consumer scam, file a complaint with the AGO by calling 1.800.551.4636 or visit /FileAComplaint.aspx.