Keep Black Friday Fever under control

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Commonsense preparation and precautions can prevent holiday disaster

If you’re venturing out to the mall and stores today, you might find it easy to get caught up in the moment. That can be a budget-busting event.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the craze of holiday shopping,” said Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Metropolitan New York. “Whether you’re heading to the local mall or shopping online, buyers should be aware of a few simple steps to help them find the best deals while shopping safely.”

The BBB has some timely tips for coping with Black Friday Fever:

Create a budget and stick to it. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2013 holiday consumer spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average holiday shopper will spend $737.95 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more. Make a list, determine how much you can afford to spend on each person and stick to it!

Compare Deals. There are many Black Friday websites claiming to capture the best deals around. Comparative price shopping online, before you buy or set out for the mall, can help make your Black Friday shopping more efficient.

Maximize Advance Alerts. Do you have favorite retailers? Sign up for their email alerts and take advantage of special social network opportunities. Many stores work to reward your loyalty and you may get a jump on special offers.

Know Store Return Policies. Knowing the store policies on returns can help you decide where to buy. Retailers may include restocking fees, shorter return deadlines and other terms and conditions. Also, be sure you understand the return policy on seasonal and sale items.

Ask for Gift Receipts. Gift receipts generally include a description of the item purchased but do not disclose the price paid. Without proof-of-purchase, the recipient may be turned down for returning or exchanging the item, or risk receiving an exchange at a lower price.

SHOPPERS SHOULD ALSO keep in mind that not everyone out there on Black Friday is looking for a bargain. Some are looking for something for nothing.

The National Retail Federation has these commonsense tips for personal safety:

Shopping Bags. Never let anyone else “watch” your bags while you are shopping – always keep your bags in sight (this goes for spouses or family members who you might be shopping with, no one appreciates your purchases more than you do!).

Educate Your Kids. Teach kids what to do if you get separated. (The best option is to instruct your child to look for a security guard, police officer, or go to the customer service desk where people are trained to help.)

Communicate. Tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone. Let them know if you change your schedule.

Stay Alert. Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, pay attention to your surroundings.

Lock the Car. Keep doors locked and windows closed when leaving your vehicle. Remember to turn off your lights and take your keys.

Use Credit Cards Safely. Beware of identity theft and keep receipts safe. Write down credit card and PIN numbers and leave a copy of it at home.

Hide Packages. Store packages in the trunk of the car. Never leave them visible inside the car. That’s an invitation for someone to break your windows and steal.

Be Vigilant. If you see something suspicious, report it to store personnel, mall security or the police department.

Black Friday Fever can be distracting, but preparation, maintaining a budget, and being cautious and alert with purchases will go a long way toward making it a more pleasant experience.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board