Q. What advice may BBB offer on the other major holiday shopping events; Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday?
A. 2020 has been a most difficult year on small business. For many, the holiday season sales will be critical for survival. After the big Black Friday sales, check out the small, local and independent businesses participating in Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small businesses and all they do for their communities.
Created in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday – the day after Black Friday – is a perfect time to stop in and support your local independent business retailers. Better Business Bureau is pleased to support Small Business Saturday and urges people to support small businesses in their communities.
BBB offers the following tips to "Shop Small" on Small Business Saturday:
Get involved. Many communities are hosting special events to celebrate and support the businesses that make your hometown unique. Find out what local events are happening in your area on the Small Business Saturday www.americanexpress.com website.
Sign-up for email alerts. Save a few dollars on your holiday budget by signing up for Small Business Saturday email specials offered by the merchants in your area. Keep in mind; you'll probably get additional deals throughout the year, not just during the holidays.
Research the shops nearest to you. Find out what past customers have to say by reading reviews online, such as those on BBB.org, and learn what shops are participating by going to ShopSmall.org.
Connect with businesses on social media. Many small businesses will advertise their sales via social media. Use #ShopSmall to search for information and share activities.
Invite your friends and family. Turn this shopping event into a "friends and family" extravaganza! Visit favorite local stores or explore a new one. Take time to get to know the business owners and local community officials, and get a head start on the holidays while enjoying time with loved ones.
Don't just shop small, eat small! Many people think that shopping at local retail stores is the only way to participate. However, small independently owned restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops would love to invite in new customers while they're out and about.
Share your experience. Take a selfie at your favorite small business. Share it on social media with the hashtags #BBB and #ShopSmall to tell the world you're a big fan of small businesses. Leave a review on BBB.org. Remember, these shops are open all year as well!
The Monday following Black Friday, known as Cyber Monday, has become one of the top shopping days of the year. But like so much else in 2020, it's likely to look different this year. Holiday online sales started in October with Amazon Prime Day, and many Black Friday deals have moved online in hopes of reducing in-store crowds. In fact, according to Accenture survey, 75% of consumers say they'll do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year. That's up from 65% last year.
But online shopping – even on Cyber Monday – has risks. Be wary of misleading advertisements, lookalike websites, and untrustworthy sellers. The following tips will help you shop online this holiday season, so you can achieve maximum savings while keeping your personal information and hard-earned money secure.
Beware of false advertising and phony websites. If a company is selling the hottest item of the year at a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for false advertising and keep a close eye on the web address in your browser. Scammers love to create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer. Make sure websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers.
Shop with trustworthy sellers on secure sites only. Be wary of businesses you aren't familiar with. Check their BBB Business Profile on BBB.org, look at the rating, and read customer reviews. In addition, be sure any web page you purchase from is secure. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS:// and not just HTTP://. Never put personal or credit card information in forms on non-secure web pages.
Keep your antivirus software up to date. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer or mobile device, and that it is up to date. This will help you to avoid non-secure websites and pop-up phishing scams, and help keep your personal information safe.
Price checks before you buy. Dozens of online retailers will claim they have the best price on an item, but their offers can be misleading. Do your homework by comparing prices. Remember that the best deal may not be the real deal.
Take advantage of rewards and loyalty programs. Check your credit card rewards program for special point offers that could add up on Cyber Monday and throughout the holidays. Make purchases using loyalty programs; many major retailers have them.
Use your credit card. It's always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Debit cards don't offer this same protection. Never make purchases with online sellers by giving them prepaid debit cards or wiring them money.
Understand return policies. Online store policies may change for Cyber Monday offers. Read the fine print before you buy. Understand the return or exchange policy for the specific item you would like to purchase. Be aware that stores may not allow returns for "final sale" or "closeout" items. Make sure to get gift receipts, so the recipient can return or exchange the item if necessary.
Watch out for phishing scams. Busy schedules and increased purchases make it easier to miss – and fall victim to – a phishing scam. Look out for unsolicited emails, texts, calls, or letters. These messages may claim you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you need to do is click on a link or give up your personal information. Avoid phishing scams by ignoring suspicious correspondence and calls from unfamiliar phone numbers.
The week following Thanksgiving isn't just about shopping. Thanks to Giving Tuesday, it's now a major time to support charity. BBB encourages you to remember individuals and charities impacted by the pandemic. Be benevolent and support others during this challenging time.
Taking place on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Giving Tuesday, www.givingtuesday.org movement has helped raise more than $1 billion for online charitable giving worldwide since its creation in 2012. BBB's Give.org urges potential donors to research charities before giving to ensure their generous contributions are going to trustworthy organizations.
Wise Giving Alliance, www.give.org evaluations provide donors insight into charity trustworthiness, helping them make wiser giving decisions. Holiday donations can make a real impact. Therefore, it's critical that donors' hard-earned dollars go to charities that operate ethically.
Visit www.bbb.org/holidaytips for additional information.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga