Approach Black Friday frenzy with caution

Black Friday is four days away, but in reality the buying bonanza has morphed into Black Week for the growing numbers of South Africans who shop online.

Not content with tempting us with a blizzard of supposed bargains on a single day – to the point that FOMO overwhelms our worries about how we’re going to afford the festive season, let alone January – the retailers are starting the super-sale from today, at least online.

A little history lesson first – in the US, Black Friday is the day after thanksgiving Thursday, when retailers kick off the festive season with massive discounts, the “black” being an accounting reference to turning a profit.

Of course, the opposite, “in the red” – being in debt – is the effect the retail frenzy has on many bargain hungry consumers.

In the past, Black Friday was all about hitting the shops and Cyber Monday was when you could go online for some top deals. Now, internationally, more money is spent on the internet than in store on Black Friday.

According to Grant Brown, MD of the country’s biggest fashion retailer, Zando, a massive 30% of those who shopped on Zando last Black Friday were new customers.

Takealot – South Africa’s biggest online retailer, by quite a margin – introduced South Africans to Black Friday in 2011, doing sales worth R1-million on that day.

This year, the company’s Black Friday sales look set to top a staggering R100-million – about double that of last year, kicking off on Monday with app-only specials.

On Black Friday in 2015, Absa reported that card-spend on the day increased by 81% compared to the average day throughout the year.

Contrast that against these numbers – at the end of March, of South Africa’s almost 25 million credit-active consumers, 39.3% had impaired credit records and 21.7% of those were three months or more in arrears, according to the National Credit Regulator.

Here’s how to be a savvy Black Friday shopper:

THE SHOPPING

Do your homework. If you’re going global, Wirecutter – owed by the New York Times – collects Black Friday deals from retailers around the web.

https://thewirecutter.com/deals/black-friday/

If Amazon is your go-to shopping destination, Wirecutter advises, add your sought after items to a wish-list or your shopping cart, but don’t buy anything yet so you can see how much the prices change between now and Cyber Monday – November 27.

“This helps reveal exactly how big a discount that sale price really is.”

If you are shopping on global websites, make very sure of your extras costs: shipping, customs and VAT, and, if your purchase is to be posted, rather than couriered, a clearance fee charged by the SA Post Office (R24 or R48 depending on the size of the parcel.)

Some sites include shipping and customs, others only shipping, and none include clearance fees.

If you don’t check out what you’re in for, your bargain could be anything but by the time it gets to you.

Look at the price, not the “saving”. Claims of, say, “60% off” refer to the price the retailer first sold that item for, not it’s most recent price. So its Black Friday price could be just 10 or 15% less than its September or October price, for example.

Research your must-have products, not just their prices.

UK consumer organisation Which? reports that almost one in five Black Friday shoppers last year admitted to not reading any reviews of the products they bought beforehand.

For Which? expert product reviews go to:

https://www.which.co.uk.

Closer to home, Fairlady magazine has for decades put many product categories to the test: FRAUD

Look out for dodgy URLs.

Even if you receive an e-mail from what looks like a legitimate retailer with their logos and fonts, it could be a scam, says Heino Gevers of Mimecast South Africa.

“Always type a retailer’s address into your browser to avoid being redirected to a fake site.

“And be on the lookout for the all-important https:// (as opposed to The “s” stands for secure – so that one little letter is crucial to your online safety.”

As for payment, every time you enter your credit or debit card details into an online form there’s a chance they’ll be intercepted by cybercriminals, Gevers says.

He recommends setting up a dedicated online shopping account with strict credit and overdraft limits, with only enough money to buy what you need.

“Or use the e-bucks, Discovery Rewards and Avios points you’ve been collecting all year.”

THE RETURNS

Check out a company’s returns policies before you buy, bearing in mind that they are not legally obliged to take back a product if it is not defective.

If they do, they have total discretion to come up with the terms and conditions.

But if something you’ve bought on a Black Friday promotion turns out to be faulty, you have full Consumer Protection Act returns rights – you get to return it, at their cost, for your choice of a refund, replacement or repair.

CONTACT WENDY:

E-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za

Twitter: @wendyknowler

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