YONKERS, NY -- With Black Friday a week away, Tod Marks, Consumer Reports' senior editor and resident shopping expert, is sharing strategies that can help shoppers get some great deals and perhaps even save them a trip to the store on one of the most hectic shopping days of the year.
"Black Friday is traditionally one of the most hectic shopping days of the year," said Mr. Marks. "Shoppers who brave the stores will likely encounter crowds and long check-out lines. A little research can help them navigate the rush or possibly save them a trip to the store altogether."
Whether shopping in-store or from the comforts of home, here are five Black Friday tips that can help consumers save money and their sanity. The full list can be found at www.ConsumerReports.org.
1) It's not always worth breaking down the 'door.' Since early October, there has been a flurry of doorbuster promotions promising things like a $200 laptop. Black Friday earned its reputation as a bargain-hunter's paradise because retailers feature a few of these high-profile items as "loss leaders," which are sold at- or below-cost to draw shoppers in. Such specials are typically offered in limited quantities; forget about rainchecks. But consumers shouldn't bother to show up unless they are willing to wait on line, sometimes for hours before the store opens, and should be prepared for possible disappointment. There are no guarantees.
2) Sniff out the most appealing specials in advance. There are numerous Web sites that obtain and publish advance notice of Black Friday deals. Many of the hot specials are already listed on Fatwallet, Walletpop, Gottadeal, and TheBlackFriday. The sites often feature downloadable circulars and coupons, too. You can also find out which products come with rebates and which merchants offer free shipping.
3) Try to get it for less online. If a circular features an eye-popping deal, consumers should visit a price-comparison Web site to see if another reliable seller is offering it cheaper. Some sources worth checking: Bizrate, Nextag, Pricegrabber, and Pricescan. Shoppers might want to try Amazon, too, as Consumer Reports' reader surveys have cited Amazon as a good merchant for appliances, electronics, and books.
4) Request a price guarantee. To maximize savings, consumers should ask if the retailer has a low-price guarantee ? which entitles shoppers to a refund of the difference between the new price and the original price paid if the item goes on sale or if it's offered cheaper elsewhere. Seven to 15 days are the norm for most price adjustments. Also note that most price-matching policies apply to the price charged by a "local" competitor, not Web sites like Amazon.com or even warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's.
5) Eye return policies carefully. The blanket policy for most products at big-box stores is 90 days, but may be shorter for electronics. Some merchants extend the return period for holiday purchases, but they reserve the right to refuse to take back anything without an original or gift receipt, especially if the item was bought with cash. Even if a store agrees to take an item back without a receipt, they may only issue you a gift card or store credit slip in exchange. And shoppers will get back the value of the lowest price the item actually sold for, not necessarily the value of the price paid for it. Receipts are needed to take advantage of warranty services.
To help shoppers make the best purchasing choices this holiday season, consumers are invited to visit www.ConsumerReports.org/holiday. The site will be updated frequently throughout this Hanukah and Christmas holiday season with new postings to ensure that people are prepared for the holidays with the latest information.