James Walker: How to come through sales season unscathed

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Pre-Christmas sales. Over the next few weeks a series of never-ending sales will be launched, all designed to part us with our hard-earned cash. But how genuine are they? Are the deals really a bargain? And what are your rights if things go wrong?
Don't get over-excited onlineDon't get over-excited online
Don't get over-excited online

Resolver’s consumer rights experts have come up with a guide to surviving the sales. Check out our tips.

 Be a cynic: The rules covering what constitutes a sale item are vague and hard to understand. If you see something that looks like a bargain, go to the manufacturer’s website and look at the recommended retail price (RRP). Some sites have price comparisons if you google the items too. You can also find price “trackers” that monitor how much an item has cost over the course of a year. Find a free one online or in an app store.

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 Have a master plan: It’s tempting to just browse the Black Friday sales, but that’s a sure-fire way to end up buying a load of rubbish that you might not need or can’t afford. Think about items you might actually want to buy – either as gifts, replacing items that are nearing the end of their useful lives, or a one-off luxury purchase that you’ve really wanted.

 You can’t fight science: It doesn’t matter if you’re convinced you can beat the techniques retailers use to get you to cough up your hard-earned cash. The fact remains there’s a huge amount of research, planning and science employed by the retailers to get to your impulse buy. Ticking clock timers, glossy images, discounted prices, item offers “expiring” – they’ve thought of it all. Only buy what you’ve planned and budgeted for.

 Make a budget: Credit cards and interest-free deals can make us careless. Don’t think of these credit sources as “free money”. Think of them as bills outstanding. So if you spend £1,000, you’ll need to allow for paying that off each month.

 Check your right to return goods: Contrary to what some stores say, you can return sale items – but only if they’re wonky in some way. Always open the delivery box and check the items – you’ve got 30 days to return them to get a refund.

 If you’re buying big items make sure you’ve checked to see if there will be a delivery charge: Some firms now offer assembly services for bit items too. Be aware that you might get a local handyman to do the job much cheaper – and bear in mind that just because the assembly firm was recommended by the retailer doesn’t mean they’ll replace the item if it’s damaged by the workman.

 Buying abroad: The exchange rate will be applied when the retailer processes the transaction so bear in mind the “estimates” on websites aren’t guaranteed. And international shipping charges have changed significantly in recent years. Items that might seem a bargain in the US will now have a hefty charge for UK delivery

 If you’re buying for Christmas, add any expensive items to your home insurance: November and December are the peak times for burglaries, depressingly.

 Be ethical: You’d be amazed at what you can recycle these days. Sofas, household appliances and other items will be collected by some charities if they’re in an okay condition. If you’re replacing something that isn’t broken, have a quick check online to see if it’s recyclable. Don’t just bin it.

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