As the saying goes, it’s the most wonderful time of year. Cheery music, holiday parties, festive decorations. It can make even the grinchiest people beam with glee. But the gift-giving season comes with a price and the 2022 holiday shopping season promises to be an unpredictable one.
Consumers are already dealing with high inflation rates and increased prices of consumer goods, which are throwing a wrench into holiday shopping. On top of that, electronics, toys, and other products will be (or already are) in short supply, and retailers are struggling to staff up as the shopping season nears.
Product shortages and increased online shopping are likely to result in an increase of online purchase scams this year. These scams accounted for nearly 40 percent of all scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2021. Shortages are likely to make purchase scams even more common, as desperate shoppers turn to shady websites in hopes of finding this year’s must-have gifts.
But don’t get your tinsel in a tangle — the good news is by getting a jump start, doing your research and knowing what to avoid, you’ll be a savvy holiday shopper ready for Jolly Old Saint Nick. Here’s your ultimate guide to successfully getting through the holiday season:
Black Friday, Nov. 25:
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.
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 percent off,” but the original price could be inflated. Carefully check the price tags, terms, and conditions. Research online to see if competitors have the item at a better price.
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.
Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26:
Small Business Saturday — a day to celebrate and support small businesses across the country — has become an important part of the holiday shopping season. You can join in by shopping at local businesses in your community, which in turn, helps the local economy.
These business owners are neighbors, friends and family with local roots. You can feel good about shopping small, knowing your purchase is making a difference.
Many communities are hosting special events to celebrate and support the businesses that make your hometown unique. Find out what local events are happening in your area on the Small Business Saturday website or visit your local chamber of commerce or merchants’ association.
Find out what past customers have to say by reading reviews online, such as those on BBB.org, and learn what shops are participating by going to ShopSmall.org.
Cyber Monday, Nov. 28:
Will you be shopping in the convenience of your home on your computer, tablet or cellphone? Be wary of scams targeting online shoppers, who are quick to hit checkout. A recent study released by Better Business Bureau found that online scams have increased 87 percent since 2015.
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.
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. And make sure you’re browsing on a secure web address that begins with “HTTPS” and not just “HTTP.” Never put personal or financial information in forms on nonsecure web pages.
Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29:
The holiday season isn’t just about shopping; Thanks to Giving Tuesday, it’s also a major time to support charity and give back. Even when you’re on a budget — every dollar counts. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org urges potential donors to research charities before giving to ensure their generous contributions are going to trustworthy organizations.
When charities seek support for the same cause, their names are often similar. Before you give, be sure you have the exact name of the charity to avoid a case of mistaken identity.
Review the website carefully, too. A responsible charity will include the following facts on its website: its mission and programs, measurable goals, and concrete criteria that describe its achievements. You should also be able to find information on their finances. Keep in mind, the type of work a charity does will affect its costs.
Also, be mindful of on-the-spot donation decisions from unfamiliar organizations. The holidays bring a higher frequency of donation requests outside public locations. Don’t succumb to pressure to make an immediate giving decision. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.
Marketers have been known to exploit the holidays to make emotional pleas to donors. Instead of making an impulse decision based on emotion, do some research first to verify that your selected charity operates ethically.
Roseann Freitas, marketplace manager Hawai‘i, Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.
Source: The Garden Island