Black Friday Sales Can Be Deceptive BBB Warns

November 26, 2013

DENVER – As Thanksgiving falls one week later in 2013, numerous shoppers will clamber to take advantage of heavily-advertised, exciting Black Friday deals. Some retailers are embracing the new trend of starting Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, during which at least 33 million are expected to shop according to the National Retail Federation.


The Better Business Bureau warns shoppers to carefully read and understand sale advertisements, and to have realistic expectations before hitting stores.


“Complaints to the BBB about Black Friday offers are common. For example, shoppers complain about cancelled orders as retailers run out of stock, bait-and-switch advertising and misunderstanding ‘door buster’ deals” said Su Hawk, president and CEO for the BBB of Denver/Boulder.


To avoid disappointment during the Black Friday sale weekend, the BBB offers five tips for shoppers:


  1. Read ads carefully before shopping. Read and understand all fine print. If you have questions, contact the store in advance and get clarity on any policies or conditions they may affect your experience.


  1. Beware of unavailability and “bait & switch.” One of the most common problems during Black Friday is the deceptive practice of offering a popular, expensive item for a great sale price, but stocking a very limited number of the product. This is similar to “bait-and-switch” because when the product becomes unavailable, you are likely to stay at the store and take advantage of other, less-valuable sales. Contact the retailer before the sale and ask how many of that item they will have in stock. Also, ask about their rain check policy. Many ads clearly state “no rain checks.”


  1. Is it really a ‘door buster?’ Big-ticket items are often advertised as ‘door busters’ but at the store, the retailer provides vouchers to shoppers who line up before doors open making it not a ‘door buster’ in the traditional sense. Find out whether or not the retailer uses a voucher system so you can plan accordingly.


  1. Beware of “up-to” savings claims. Exciting Black Friday offers may state that certain items are “Up-to 70% OFF!” or any large percentage off, when most items aren’t discounted as heavily as the claim indicates. BBB Code of Advertising guidelines suggests advertisers include the minimum and maximum amount of savings, e.g. “30% - 70% off,” so the range of potentials savings are clear.


  1. Keep your receipts. Though many retailers relax their return policies around the holidays, it is still wise to keep receipts in case a problem arises with a product or transaction. In addition, if a retailer advertises a “lowest price guarantee,” you will need the receipt to take advantage of the guarantee should you find the product cheaper with a competitor.


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About the BBB

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