By Sean Wardwell
Killeen Daily Herald
Black Friday is usually a time to pick up bargains, but the Austin office of the Better Business Bureau cautions consumers to be careful when looking for deals.
Consumers need to be aware of retail policies when buying gifts and exercise caution in their purchases, especially with gift cards, said Richard Kitterman, regional director for the business bureau.
"More and more, gift cards have become not only an acceptable gift, but a preferred gift," he said. "There's been a vast improvement in the depreciation value of a card, but there's still some things consumers need to be aware of."
Kitterman suggested making sure that recipients of gift cards have a store accepting the gift card in their area, as some stores do not have an online presence.
He also cautioned against consumers purchasing gifts with store credit cards. "They're attractive, and it may be enticing when operating on a limited budget, but lots of times they have a high interest rate," he said. "You could find yourself paying a minimum payment compounded by a high interest rate. It can be a real blow when the new year comes around."
Kitterman suggested making holiday purchases with a non-store credit card due to the additional protections that come with using one, such as extended warranties. For example, he said he was recently contacted by a consumer who bought an iPhone with a credit card and was able to get a replacement for it when it broke due to her card's extended warranty policies.
"Card holders need to be sure to review their agreements," he said. "They offer some added protections that cash and checks don't have."
Aside from these tips, the business bureau said it's common for shoppers to become victims of questionable advertising, among other issues.
"Every year, Better Business Bureau receives hundreds of complaints from consumers who allege a variety of issues with retailers on Black Friday," stated the organization on its website. "Some of the more common complaints BBB receives involve misleading advertisements, low availability of items or consumers failing to receive items after ordering in-store."
The business bureau suggests shoppers read the fine print on any deal. "Watch for discrepancies in advertised prices and the prices on the shelf. Verify the real price before checking out," states the bureau's website.
The bureau also advises consumers to be aware of a store's return policy and to read the terms and conditions associated with each purchase.
The business agency also encourages customers to request a gift receipt because a store's refund policy usually applies to the day the item is purchased and not when the gift is given. Moreover, the bureau suggests consumers plan early and create a realistic gift budget.
Contact Sean Wardwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.
Have a problem?
Consumers with any complaints about a business can call the Better Business Bureau at (512) 445-4748 or go to www.bbb.org.