We're expecting a lot of folks to be out the day after Thanksgiving, possibly that day, as well, looking for super deals for the Christmas season.

Many retailers will open early on 'Black Friday', some at 4 or 5 a.m., and stay open late to give shoppers the chance to take advantage of sales on everything from home decor to flat screen TVs to toys. Some people may choose to shop online, from the comfort of their own homes.

Whether you'll be fighting the crowds or snagging bargains via your computer, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to help you save time, headaches and money:

  • Shop with Trust. If you find a deal - don’t just jump at the first chance to get it. BBB recommends doing your research on the business - know how long they’ve been in business, look into their customer service track record, check them out at bbb.org.
  • When shopping online, be sure you are on the actual retailer site’s page before entering credit card information. Be sure the webpage starts with “https:” - the “s” means the site is secure.
  • Comparative Shop Online. There are dozens of Black Friday websites that claim to capture the best deals around and they can really help you do your comparative shopping online. Before you pick your favorite site, BBB recommends that consumers find a reputable site that’s not a fly-by-night operation by checking them out at bbb.org.
  • Know before You Go. Currently and in the coming days, many retailers will release their Black Friday deals online, in social media and other publications. Research where the sales are and make a list of your gift priorities to compare prices and plan your day of deals.
  • Create a budget. To help avoid overspending, some experts recommend using a prepaid credit card if they offer the same anti-fraud protection as a regular credit card. Remember to bring ads with you on Black Friday just in case the price is not what you expected.
  • Don’t Fall for False Advertising. Some companies will resort to advertisements that are untrue, misleading, deceptive, or plain fraudulent. Black Friday advertising will be abundant and BBB urges consumers to exercise caution.
  • Know return policies, restocking fees and refunds. Ask for the store's return policy before you make your purchase. Companies are not required to give consumers money back, but they need to post their return policy prominently near the cashier. Also, always ask about restocking fees, and save your receipts in one place so you don't lose them. Many companies will require you to produce a receipt for a return. Ask for a gift receipt.
  • Beware “final sales.” A very short return window (before Christmas day) or in-store or online-only credit could leave you with a deal gone wrong.
  • Keep the paperwork. Remember to get gift receipts and keep them organized in case need of a return or exchange arises later.
  • Huge discounts on electronics don’t always mean you’re getting a good deal. Sometimes, the products offered are the lower-end models with only basic features specially produced for the holiday season. It may be what’s called a “derivative product” or a stripped-down model with accessories costing extra.
  • Read the fine print. Often stores advertise a whopping discounted price, but the fine print states you have to send in a rebate. Be sure to send in the rebate as soon as you get home so you do not forget.

    BBB serving Central Louisiana and the Ark-La-Tex wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday. Remember be a smart consumer and do your homework!

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