Gift-Buying Tips for Post-Black Friday Shopping
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
November 29 2011 03:47 PM ET
The historic Black Friday rush is over, and what a rush it was. Sales for the holiday weekend topped $52 billion with about a 60-40 split between brick-and-mortar stores and online locations. Shoppers spent significantly more that analysts anticipated: $398.62 per person versus $246, according to the National Retail Federation.
Holiday shopping is far from over. Now you can shop without Black Friday’s crushing crowds and Cyber Monday’s midnight deadlines, as long as you avoid the Saturday before Christmas, which falls on Dec. 17 (not counting Christmas Eve!). Keep in mind that the last day for most online shopping is Dec. 16 and more than 2,000 retailers will participate in free online shipping day that Friday.
The best bargains require planning and there are several new websites that make comparison shopping easier than in years past.
2 online tools to try
Similar to Bing’s airline ticket price predictor, which tells you how likely it is that a particular flight will rise or fall in price over the next week, Decide.com uses pricing history and statistical analysis to estimate whether a given product is at its lowest price. It can help you decide whether to buy now or wait within a two-week period. It also recommends newer models with a similar price if available. The site claims an accuracy rate of 77 percent.
Unlike Black Friday weekend, retailers plan to rotate sales throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas. Amazon.com releases a selection of deals at scheduled times throughout each day, much like the popular deal site Woot. It’s unreasonable to check your favorite online sites hourly or even daily, so try BuyLater.com. It lets you mark products on the site of a supported retailer (Amazon , Walmart, Zappos, NewEgg and Golfsmith) through an extension for Firefox, Chrome or Safari web browsers.
The “Buy Later” button appears under the “Add to Cart” panel on Amazon and other included retailers. It automatically adds the item to your “Watch List” on the site. When the price on a product you wanted drops, you get an email.
Just because an item is included in a so-called sale, doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. Double-check prices elsewhere. Google Product Search has recent improvements, including a comparison between the lowest online price and prices available from local retailers. Yahoo Shopping also has shopping by product name and category and you can sort by lowest to highest price and vice versa.
Mobile price check
Just a day before Black Friday, Amazon released its Price Check app for iPhones and Android devices — a handy safeguard against impulse purchases. Simply scan a product bar code while you’re shopping in a store and the app will bring up prices from Amazon’s vast inventory of products, new and used. Users can also snap a picture of the item, say the product name into their phone’s mic or type in the app’s search bar for results, but the bar code would seem to be the most reliable method.
Stop! 3 things to do before you buy
Before you click “buy,” always check the web for coupon codes, which could save you 25 percent or more. RetailMeNot.com offers an enormous selection of discount codes offered by online retailers, and while there’s no guarantee (a code may have expired), it’s worth a try on websites that accept discount codes.
Only buy from reputable sites and stores. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is bad. Online that could mean credit card theft, fraudulent charges and subpar return policies. And that back-alley store could be just as risky, with counterfeit products and no warranties. Always check the warranty, the return policy and shipping rates. When you purchase online, you should receive a confirmation email and follow-up messages letting you know when an item has shipped. Check the messages and be sure whatever discounts you were entitled to have been credited to your order and that no unauthorized charges have been made.
Tracking packages can be a nightmare. Consider signing up for UPS My Choice , a free service from UPS that sends an email the day before a package is scheduled to arrive. You’ll also receive a message if the delivery date changes.