Black Fri­day: make sure you don’t go into the red with our smart shop­ping guide

Re­search prices on com­par­i­son sites in ad­vance and be­ware of deals on so­cial me­dia

The Observer - - Cash - Shane Hickey Cash Edi­tor

The tills on the high street did not ring as fre­quently last Christ­mas, as con­sumers opted to buy their presents ear­lier, on Black Fri­day, the an­nual US-in­spired event where shops slash prices to boost sales. This year it will take place on 23 November and will be fol­lowed three days later by Cyber Mon­day, an­other im­port from across the Atlantic aimed at peo­ple spend­ing on­line. So pop­u­lar have th­ese days be­come that they en­cour­aged shop­pers to in­crease their spend­ing last year de­spite a pro­tracted squeeze on house­hold in­come.

It is likely that once again all the big retailers will take part this year in the week­end of dis­counts, but are the bar­gains as good as they would like us to be­lieve? And what do con­sumers need to be­ware of when buy­ing on the day that has be­come the start of Christ­mas shop­ping?

Do I need this?

Martin Lewis of MoneySav­ingEx­pert has a sim­ple rule when it comes to shop­ping, which is worth bear­ing in mind when the Black Fri­day of­fers start ap­pear­ing far in ad­vance of the day it­self. Ask your­self whether you need the item you are con­sid­er­ing buy­ing and whether you can af­ford it. Then check to see what the prices are else­where.

If you do have some money to spare, ask your­self if you will use it and whether the item is worth buy­ing. And again, make sure that you check the prices else­where. There is no point in buy­ing some­thing that has an enor­mously re­duced price but will only gather dust on the shelf once it is de­liv­ered.

How much is the dis­count?

Fre­quently, a deal is not a deal at all. Last year, con­sumer group Which? found that many items dis­counted over the Black Fri­day week­end could have been bought cheaper or at the same price at other times of the year. More than half of a se­lec­tion of items sur­veyed were cheaper be­fore the event and a sim­i­lar num­ber cost less af­ter­wards.

With that in mind, it is best to re­search the item you want be­fore you buy. Tele­vi­sions are likely to be one of the most pop­u­lar items dis­counted over the week­end, so if you are aim­ing to buy one, know what you are look­ing for in ad­vance in­stead of wast­ing time on the day check­ing whether the one on of­fer is suit­able.

One use­ful tool for check­ing the price his­tory of a prod­uct is the CamelCamelCamel web­site, which al­lows you to check a prod­uct’s price his­tory on Ama­zon. This way, you can see whether the item has ever sold for less than the Black Fri­day sale price. There are also nu­mer­ous price-com­par­i­son sites that col­late the cost of prod­ucts across the web, such as Google Shop­ping, PriceSpy, iDealo and PriceRun­ner.

Am I cov­ered as usual?

As al­ways, just be­cause you are buy­ing in a sale does not mean your rights evap­o­rate. The rules are set out in the Con­sumer Rights Act: in the event that you buy an item that turns out to be faulty, you should first go to the re­tailer, rec­om­mends Which?. In the first 30 days, you can re­ject some­thing that is faulty and get your money back. Af­ter 30 days, retailers can re­place or re­pair the faulty item in­stead of giv­ing a re­fund. Re­turn­ing goods that are not faulty for a re­fund or an ex­change is pos­si­ble if a re­tailer has a re­turns pol­icy, which is usu­ally within 28 days of pur­chase.

Un­der the Con­sumer Con­tracts Reg­u­la­tions, you can can­cel an on­line or­der up to 14 days from the time the goods are de­liv­ered to you. It is also up to the re­tailer to de­liver the goods to you and to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion if there is a prob­lem. The Con­sumer Rights Act also ex­tends to dig­i­tal me­dia such as games, ebooks, films and mu­sic. If the con­tent is faulty, you can claim a re­place­ment.

Be­ware of scams

In the frenzy of ac­tiv­ity and deal an­nounce­ments dur­ing the sale week­end, it is easy to lose track of where the of­fers are com­ing from. Be­ware of deals that pop up on so­cial me­dia or if there are un­so­licited calls on and around the sale days. Last year, Ac­tion Fraud warned peo­ple to avoid click­ing on links from text and What­sApp mes­sages, over con­cerns that they may have been hi­jacked by fraud­sters send­ing texts at the same time as retailers.

Many shops send texts in­stead of emails to pro­mote their of­fers un­der the be­lief that peo­ple are more likely to open links from a text mes­sage than they are via email. Ac­tion Fraud said peo­ple were mostly de­frauded by sales of mo­biles phones and footwear. Be wary of “too good to be true” prices, care­fully check terms and con­di­tions, and read buyer re­views for sites you have not used be­fore that of­fer cheap prices.

Smart buy­ing tips

Sav­ings made on Black Fri­day and Cyber Mon­day can be boosted if you shop smart. Cash­back sys­tems and web­sites can give back points and money on pur­chases. Us­ing a credit card can of­fer you more pro­tec­tion if some­thing goes awry.

Un­der sec­tion 75 of the Con­sumer Credit Act, pur­chases of more than £100 and up to £30,000 are pro­tected. This cov­ers un­de­liv­ered and faulty goods, as well as ser­vices such as flights. You only need to put the de­posit on your card, not the whole cost, and you can pay it off straight­away, so you do not need to get into debt to get the pro­tec­tion.

Putting your pur­chase de­tails into a re­tailer’s site in ad­vance means sales can be made quicker, while some retailers will match prices that are be­ing of­fered by com­peti­tors on Black Fri­day.

Pho­to­graph by Daniel LealOli­vas/Getty

The US-in­spired shop­ping ex­trav­a­ganza is now a firm fix­ture in Bri­tain.

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