WORD TO THE WISE: Black Friday shopping tips

If you are going to brave the crowds on Black Friday, make sure your time and money is well spent. Black Friday is a day that many shoppers live for, and the Better Business Bureau’s past experience tells us that all deals are not created equal. Often the fine print is the most important thing to understand. Before you head out the door and get caught up in the frenzy, BBB offers the following tips to help you save time and money.

Tip 1 -- Know before you go: Research where the Black Friday sales are, and make a list of gift priorities and compare prices. Then plan your day of deals. Because many advertisements will begin before the actual sale, collect the ads and take them with you on Black Friday just in case the price is not what you expected or as advertised.

Tip 2 -- Do not fall for false advertising: Despite BBB’s effort to advance trust in the marketplace, some companies will resort to advertisements that are untrue, misleading, deceptive or fraudulent. Consumers should watch for red flags. Be alert to bait-and-switch ads designed to bring you in but push you toward more expensive items, fine-print return policies, final sales and deals that end before the day is done.

Tip 3 -- Maximize advance alerts: Now is a good time to sign up for email alerts from your favorite retailer and follow their social media platforms. You may get a jump on special offers.

Tip 4 -- Set up your reward cards: Make sure you have reward cards with your favorite stores and keep them with you. Check your credit card rewards program for special points that could add up on Black Friday.

Tip 5 -- Shop with trust: If you find a deal, do not jump at the first chance to get it. Do your research on the business, look into their customer service track record and check them out at If you have concerns about the type of gift or the right fit, make sure you understand the return policy and its details.

Tip 6 -- Comparative shop online: There are dozens of Black Friday websites claiming to capture the best deals around and they can really help you do your comparative shopping online. Consumers should find a reputable site and check them out. See what others have said about the retailer, make sure the site is secure, get a phone number and physical address in case of a problem.

Tip 7 -- Look for QR codes: They are square, black-and-white and funny looking, but they can take you straight to a deal. QR stands for “quick response” codes, and they can lead directly to a special offer. Before you can scan one, you need to install a QR app reader. Most new smartphones are equipped to scan QR codes.

Tip 8 -- Shop small: Save gas money and time when you stay close to home. Consumers are encouraged to support small businesses in their community on Small Business Saturday the day after Black Friday. Check neighborhood retailers for weekend deals and gain some goodwill by knowing you have done your part to help them thrive during the holidays.

Tip 9 -- Check return and exchange policies: Store policy can change for Black Friday deals. Make sure you know what the return and exchange policy is for your Black Friday special. Determine if a return is even possible – especially if you are buying online. Be alert to merchandise sold as a “final sale” item. Be aware that many retailers offer only store credits for returns. Remember to get gift receipts, which the recipient might need to return the item.

Tip 10 -- Shop safely: Always be aware of your surroundings. Consumers should take their time and plan ahead for the best rewards of shopping during the holidays.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, or by emailing