Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days in North America, but this year is going to look a bit different. The world is still in the grip of a pandemic, meaning people are more likely to be glued to their computer screens than they will be stampeding through a big box store to get the hottest deal. There is also a good chance people will be starting before Black Friday arrives, both to ensure what they want is delivered in time and to increase the odds that it is in stock.
But while staying home and shopping online will keep people safe from COVID-19, it does open shoppers to more risks if they don’t know the ins and outs of adding items to a digital cart instead of a push one.
Among the hot items in any Black Friday sale is home electronics; to help people safely navigate the online shopping experience on the day after American Thanksgiving, here is some good advice:
Keep it Familiar — There is an uncountable number of websites out there in cyberspace wanting to sell you things. Many are legit. May more are not. A known retail brand is responsible with your personal information. A scammer would not be. Look for misspellings and be wary of domains that aren’t .com or .ca.
Be Secure — Check the URL and ensure the address begins with “HTTPS” with an icon of a padlock, probably to the left of the URL. The “S” at the end and the lock indicate it is a secure site that will protect your data – like your credit card number. If it is just an “HTTP” site, keep on scrolling. And while we are on security, make sure your antivirus protection is up to date, and do you shopping from home on you own secure wifi network. Never use your credit card when on a public wifi provider.
Double Check the Seller — You may be on the website of an internationally renowned retail brand, but that doesn’t mean the item you are looking to buy is being sold by them. Several of the big retailers have a marketplace where third-party vendors can sell items among the inventory of the host store’s. Be wary and double check that you are buying something from the store you think are buying it from — most manufacturer websites will let you know where their products can be purchased. Most grey market material is not subject to warranty coverage.
Ask Questions — Online marketplaces, such as Amazon, give shoppers the opportunity to engage one-on-one with brands, manufacturers and other consumers. Do your research ahead of time and make sure you take advantage of the “Ask a Question” feature to ensure you are armed with all the information you need to make the most informed purchase to meet your needs — before shopping day.
Cross Reference with the Retailer — One of the challenges with these third-party vendors is that they often sell older models, US stock or something that is refurbished. And in each case, it is unlikely the manufacturer’s warranty is still valid. This is certainly a case where a deal that looks too good to be true likely is. To protect yourself against this, open the manufacturer’s website in a separate browser window and punch in the product number. This will tell you immediately if you are looking at a current Canadian model, and if it is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Read Online Reviews — As you are buying online, you can’t actually see what the picture is like as you could in a bricks-and-mortar store, and there are no sales staff around to answer your questions. Pay close attention to what others say about picture quality and the spectrum of colours. Complaints about a lack of customer support can be an indication that the consumer purchased an older or refurbished model from a third party, rather than an actual customer service issue.
Be Prepared — In the week leading up to Black Friday, have look through digital or paper flyers to get an idea of what you may want to buy, and do your research ahead of time. Then when the deals open, you will be ready to jump in before inventories are depleted.
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