Sinead Ryan: Black Friday can be great for a bargain but don't let FOMO put you under pressure
Black Friday has a whiff of FOMO (fear of missing out) about it. You're bombarded with so-called special offers and if you're not quick enough to grab one, you'll never forgive yourself. But you're being asked to part with your cash online in a rush before you've had time to shop around.
In other words, you may get a bargain, but you have to be extra careful going about it. Black Friday is an American concept, dating back as far as 1952, promoting the beginning of the official Christmas retail season and it is always the day after Thanksgiving which, this year, falls next Thursday.
There are several explanations for the 'black', but the common one refers to the turning of retailers accounts from 'red' to 'black' as shoppers descend in a swarm.
In Europe, the day denotes an online shopping spree with the best bargains to be had in gadgets, computers and household appliances.
Stores which will offer genuine discounts include Amazon, Currys/PC World, Argos, Debenhams and Harvey Norman among others. Some of these will be promoting them in advance of next Friday (see panel), so keep an eye out.
Currys says last year it processed five orders per second in Ireland with 48pc of sales coming from mobile devices.
The best bit about shopping on Black Friday is doing it in your jammies with a coffee at your laptop. No crowds, buses, parking or ducking the rain with massive bags. Of course, you can still get bargains in-store if you want the excitement of it.
You also enjoy extra rights when you shop online thanks to EU consumer laws which recognise that buying at distance means you can get a refund if you simply change your mind about a purchase within 14 days.
It's also early enough that if you don't like what you've bought, you still have time to return or exchange it before Christmas.
It's the internet, so the usual rules apply. Handing over your credit card details to dodgy websites is unfortunately common, so abide by simple rules. Only buy from known, verified sites. Ask questions about delivery and returns policies. Make sure the site has a street address and preferably a customer service department reachable by land-line.
Where possible, pay by PayPal so your money isn't taken before the goods arrive. Otherwise, always pay by credit card so that you can apply under the 'chargeback' system to your bank for a refund if it turns out the items don't turn up.
- Do your research. If you don't, you're more likely to be cajoled into a new hoover or laptop when you simply wanted a kettle, and find at least three retailers to compare. Then, on Black Friday, you'll know for sure if the discount price advertised is a bargain.
- Add on currency conversions, post, packaging and delivery charges to see if you're better off just driving to the shop instead and collecting.
- Sign up to e-alerts with your favourite stores for Black Friday so you'll get advance notice of goods for sale.
- If you're unsure about a website, use the 'Howard' shopping assistant on the ECC home page (eccireland.ie) which shows when a website is registered and comments from users.
- Read the terms and conditions of sale carefully. In particular, pay attention to the cancellation and returns policies.
- Only commit your money if there's a 'padlock' symbol on the browser line. This shows the payment is secure.
- You have no consumer rights if you buy off websites outside the EU.