BBB says proper planning and research is a Black Friday "must do"

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KMOV.com

(KMOV.com) -- The Better Business Bureau is urging customers to budget, plan and do research before venturing out on a 'Black Friday' shopping spree.

Holiday shopping does not have to destroy your nerves or your budget if you research the items you plan to buy and set limits on what you will spend.  By taking the time to do proper research, you will know whether advertised deals are all they are cracked up to be.
 
"Some Black Friday deals may look good on the surface, but quantities may be extremely limited or the size of the discount greatly exaggerated," said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. "By checking prices at several retailers and reading advertisements carefully, consumers can make an educated decision on whether it's worthwhile to stand in line or miss a good night's sleep."
 
When buying gifts, the BBB urges shoppers to keep receipts for all purchases.  Be sure to check return and refund policies before you buy.
 
Online shopping can be a good way to avoid the crowded stores and the BBB has some guidelines to help you shop online safely:
 
Protect your personal information. Check to see how your information may be used online. When shopping at stores, keep your card out of sight and make sure you get it back and safely in your wallet before you leave the store.
Check the site's security settings and privacy policy. If the site is secure, its address should start with  https://.  The "s" means the site is secure.  You also may see a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen.
Know the company's refund and return policies. Are there restocking fees? Do you have to pay shipping costs on returns?
Do not rely on pictures of a product. Read the description and check model numbers, if applicable. 
Be cautious of free or very-low-price offers.  Often, free offers are followed by an open-ended enrollment in a program that automatically bills your credit card account. Before ordering anything online, make sure you click on and read all terms and conditions.
Pay with a credit card. If you suspect fraud or don't receive your order, you  can challenge the charge in the event of a dispute.
Obtain a tracking number for shipments. If you need the product before the holidays, find out when the seller intends to ship it and if possible, how it will be shipped. 
Print out the order. Make sure you have the documentation page for online orders and save it until the order arrives.
Be aware of phishing. Don't respond to emails that ask for your credit card or bank account number or other personal information. Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming there is a problem with an order or account to lure you into revealing financial information. Call the company or find the customer service form on the company website to confirm any problem.
 
Toy safety is a concern for many parents. Make sure any toys you buy are appropriate for the age of the child. If possible, inspect toys carefully to look for sharp edges that may cut, moving parts that can pinch or small, removable pieces that can be a choking hazard. Toy chests should have air holes, and fabric products should be flame-resistant. Check for a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal on electric toys.
 
Check a company's BBB Business Review before you do business with a company or charity by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

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