Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and some retailers have already announced several of their deals. Though more and more stores are opening their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday will remain one of the biggest shopping days of the year, both online and in stores. BBB offers advice for consumers who plan to shop on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and intend to make charitable donations on Giving Tuesday.
BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty says “Falling between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, on November 28th, can be a fun part of your holiday weekend. By staying local, you’ll support the small businesses that helped create the identity of your community. This annual event is a great way to show your support for these local shops.”
As always, retailers will compete feverishly to get shoppers to visit their stores and their websites! The National Retail Federation (NRF) “expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase a solid 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion – significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent. Holiday sales in 2015 are expected to represent approximately 19 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. Additionally, NRF is forecasting online sales to increase between 6 and 8 percent to as much as $105 billion.”
BBB Tips for shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Small Business Saturday to help ensure a satisfactory experience:
- Beware of pop-up shops that show up around the holidays, as these stores can disappear before you know it. Also, before you decide to purchase products online, visit bbbinc.org to check out a business. Make sure the website you’re browsing is reputable.
- When making an online purchase, look for the SSL encryption. You can recognize it by the “s” in https:// of the URL or the lock symbol; both ensure that the information you’re about to give out is encrypted for your safety.
- When shopping online and in stores, be sure to make purchases with your credit card, not a debit card. Credit cards give you significant protection against fraud, and even if your information falls into the wrong hands, you’ll be more likely to get all of your money back with your credit card company. If using a debit card, once the funds are drawn, they’re gone.
- Gift cards can be tricky purchases when bought online. Sometimes, gift cards purchased from a third-party seller can turn out to be used or missing the correct amount of funds. If you’re interested in buying a gift card, order it from a verified store or seller.
- Be sure to review all refund policies and warranty information. In the event that something goes wrong with your purchase, you’ll also want to have proof of your transaction. Save all receipts, email confirmations, or invoices you receive from retailers and if shopping online, be sure to screenshot the final confirmation screen as proof.
- When you’ve finished shopping both in store and online, you should remain vigilant. Stay updated on your accounts and statements, as well as any orders you completed online. Make sure only the charges you’ve approved appear on your statement, and if you see something suspicious, contact your financial institution.
Charities will also be seeking to capitalize on the holiday spirit by promoting “Giving Tuesday” on Dec. 1st as an opportune time to make donations. For many Americans, giving to charities is almost as important during the holidays as celebrating with family. As a result, mailboxes often are stuffed with charitable solicitations as well as catalogs this time of year. Whether you celebrate or not, giving before Jan. 1st means your gifts will be deductible on your 2015 tax return.
Giving Tuesday is an idea that began three years ago with the 92nd Street Y in New York. Since then, it has grown to include more than 27,000 partners nationwide. Last year, more than $26.1 million was given online through Blackbaud, a company that processes online donations of charities listed on the Giving Tuesday website.
BBB tips to increase your confidence that your donation will be used wisely:
- If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don’t hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances.
- Don’t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.
- When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: What portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution? If the information is not on the item, check the organization’s website.
- Before donating used items, make sure they are in good shape to reuse. Donating junk puts an undue burden on the charity and could do more harm than good. You may want to consider selling the item and donating the proceeds to a charity.
- Seek professional advice if you are in doubt about the deductibility of contributions.
Other helpful tips for making donations are posted on give.org. The IRS website at irs.gov has information on the deductibility of donations on tax returns.