Black Friday tips for cyber-shoppers as discount season kicks off
Black Friday is four days away, but the buying bonanza has morphed into Black Week for South Africans who shop online.
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.
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 - introduced South Africans to Black Friday in 2011, doing sales worth R1-million on that day. This year, its Black Friday sales look set to top R100-million, kicking off on Monday with app-only specials.
Do your homework. If you're going global, Wirecutter - owned by the New York Times - collects Black Friday deals from retailers around the web
If Amazon is your go-to shopping destination, Wirecutter advises, add 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."
Make sure of your extra 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 includes clearance fees. If you don't check what you're in for, your bargain could be anything but by the time it gets to you. And remember: goods bought from overseas don't have a warranty in South Africa.
Look at the price, not the "saving". Claims of, say, "60% off" refer to the price the retailer first sold that item for, not its 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 products, not just their prices. UK consumer organisation Which? reports that almost one in five Black Friday shoppers last year admitted to not reading 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.
Look out for dodgy URLs. Even if you receive an e-mail from what looks like a legitimate retailer with its logos and fonts, it could be a scam, says Heino Gevers of Mimecast.
"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 http://). The "s" stands for secure - so that one little letter is crucial to your online safety."
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.
Check out a company's returns policies before you buy - it is not legally obliged to take back a product if it is not defective. If they do, they have total discretion over 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 the company's cost, for your choice of a refund, replacement or repair.