While the sumptuous Thanksgiving main course precedes the perennial bittersweet pill of Black Friday crowds, the state’s top lawman and other experts offer advice to avoid rip-offs and injuries as holiday shopping ensues.
The National Retail Federation, an industry association, predicts a busy season with more than 165 million Americans shopping over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, according to a Nov. 15 report.
“The tradition of Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping has become a five-day event with consumers spending money in stores, supporting local small businesses, and online with their mobile devices and computers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay stated. “Even as people are starting to purchase gifts earlier in the season, consumers still enjoy finding good Thanksgiving deals and passing time shopping with family and friends over the long holiday weekend.”
The report states an estimated 39.6 consumers will shop in Thanksgiving Day, with 114.6 million shopping on Black Friday, 66.6 million on Small Business Saturday and another 33.3 million on Sunday.
The year’s busiest shopping spree wraps up on Cyber Monday, with an estimated 68.7 million shoppers predicted to avail themselves of eye-popping online deals.
Overall, the association predicts an increase over last year’s sales of 3.8% to 4.2% with total spending estimated to top $728 billion. The average consumer is expected to spend $1,047, an increase of 4% over the previous season.
As shoppers across the Valley reach for their wallets, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office offers a variety of suggestions to avoid become a victim of fraud and other crimes.
Advice for those chasing the shiniest loss-leader gems early Friday morning: avoid the bait-and-switch.
“Advertising a set of sales or ‘deals’ and refusing to honor the terms of the advertisement is deceptive advertising and illegal in Arizona. Consumers using holiday sales and coupons should be careful that the specials advertised match what is advertised in stores,” the agency stated. “Consider bringing ads with you to the store to see if prices charged match advertised prices. Read all fine print or disclosures before making your purchase.”
At checkout, shoppers should ensure the advertised or labeled price matches that displayed on the cash register; they can also check the receipt to be sure the promised price was correctly applied to the sale.
Even when the right price is charged, consumers sometimes discover they cannot return purchased items or they must pay additional fees if they do — a little research can help prevent confusion and disappointment, the AG’s office suggested.
“Before making a purchase, ask what the return policy is, as return policies vary from store to store and website to website. Also ask if the store charges a restocking fee, and, if so, how much,” the agency stated.
Shoppers are also safer buying with credit cards instead of debit cards or cash, since credit companies and government regulations typically provide better protections for such purchases.
“Many credit cards come with zero-fraud liability, which makes getting a refund easier. Buying on credit also offers increased federal protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which allows you to dispute charges you did not authorize and more options if you need to dispute a charge,” officials stated.
Fraud is just one concern for holiday shoppers.
Another real threat is that of injury as Black Friday deal-seekers jostle and occasionally come to blows as they compete for dwindling stock in crowded stores.
A study published at Reviews.org in November 2018 highlights some of the risks by analyzing crime statistics and consumer surveys to predict the incidence of Black Friday violence across the 50 states.
Based on violent crime reports and perceived interest in in-person holiday shopping, along with reports of Black Friday deaths and injuries, the study ranked Arizona the ninth most dangerous state last year.
The top five most-dangerous Black Friday shopping states ranked were Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama.
The five least-dangerous predicted in the 2018 rankings were Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Oregon and Vermont, according to the report.
The largest number of violent incidents were reported at Walmart stores, which accounted for 57.1% of reported crimes; malls came in second with nearly 18% of incidents; and Toys-R-Us, Target and Best Buy all tied for third with 7.1%.
The most common type of incidents reported were trampling injuries at 30% followed closely by shootings at 26.7%. Attacks around cars and in parking lots came in third with 16.7%, while stabbings came in fourth with 13.3%.
To stay safe while shopping, Reviews.org suggested some survival tips:
Plan ahead: Watch the ads and chart out which stores to visit and when.
Travel light: A big purse or satchel can mark a shopper for would-be pickpockets.
Charge the phone: Whether trying to coordinate with others or call for help, the last thing a Black Friday shopper needs is a dying phone battery.
Obey instincts: When possible, stick to the outside of tightly packed crowds and, if danger is suspected, get out — no deal is worth life or limb.
Don’t go, maybe: To skip the crowds and avoid the hassle and dangers altogether, some shoppers may choose to stay home, shop another day or buy online.
The report offered a final word of advice — be kind.
“While we don’t know exactly how the madness will go on Black Friday, we can caution you to bring your most compassionate selves when the prices are down and you’re rolling around town. People are stressed, eager, and possibly full of tofurkey and cranberry sauce — be kind out there, kids,” the report stated.