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1. Shop early. "Shoppers should be prepared to deal with heavy traffic and packed stores, especially during the afternoon and into the evening. To avoid the frenzy, arrive early, when there will be specials, discounts and a greater availability of products in stock. Buy must-have gifts first, especially if it's a hot item that's likely in short supply.
2. Black Friday isn't the only day to save. Retailers may offer even steeper discounts as Christmas approaches, to ensure that the inventory will be sold. The drawback to playing the waiting game is that shoppers may not find a full complement of sizes, colors and styles. Also, the latest and greatest gadgets could be sold out.
3. Pay attention to prices after the purchase is made. Many stores offer price protection. If an item goes on sale within a certain number of days after the purchase, the shopper may qualify for a price adjustment.
4. Check out the retailer's Web site. Many retailers suspend shipping charges around the holidays. Some retailers offer coupons or discounts that can be used for in-store or online purchases. Also, some sites offer the option of ordering online for in-store pickup.
5. Know the return policy (restocking fees may be included). Because some retailers have instituted stricter return policies, ask for gift receipts. Without a receipt, shoppers should be prepared to get a refund or store credit for the lowest price the item actually sold for, not necessarily what was paid. Restocking fees are increasingly common, especially if boxes are opened or packaging is missing.
Source: Consumer Reports magazine
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