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Safe Shopping Tips For 'Black Friday' And The Holidays

You have probably read or heard about it in either the print, television, or radio advertisements. Many retailers will open early Thanksgiving day night to start the long weekend of shopping including what many refer to as "Black Friday." If you plan to shop, know your rights and shopping tips so you don't get "mugged" by excessive fees.

To help consumers, the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation (OCABR) has developed a holiday shopping guide that explains consumers' rights, the actions retailers are allowed, and shopping tips for the best experience. For example:

"Sale: For the term "sale" to be used in an ad when the actual savings are not stated, the law requires the savings to be at least 10% for items regularly priced $200 or less, and at least 5% for items over $200."

"Restocking Fee: This is a charge deducted from the purchase price when an item is returned, resulting in a partial refund. Sellers must disclose their return policies, including restocking fees, before the initial transaction is completed."

"Layaway: A plan that allows you to pay for a product in installments and receive the merchandise after you have paid in full. A store must fully disclose its policy on layaway plans, including cancellation and return (or non-return) of payments already made."

"Know the seller: Purchasing from a seller you know and trust is the best way to ensure an excellent shopping experience. For unknown web-sites, use an online store review service such as Epinions, BizRate, the Better Business Bureau..."

"Shop smart with a Smartphone: Smartphones allow consumers to keep track of deals, navigate between stores, and compare prices. Check out apps such as Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper and Google Shopper..."

To read the full list of right and tips for consumers, download the "Black Friday Shoppers Guide" (Adobe PDF) or this mobile-friendly version of the same report. Rules for retailers in other states may vary. Check with the consumer affairs agency in your state.

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