How to shop online like a pro
In recent years the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales have become an essential part of the holiday season shopping calendar. With prices cut on gadgets, clothing and big-budget tech, it is renowned as a fantastic opportunity to buy presents at a lower price.
But with most high-street retailers offering deals it can be easy to become overwhelmed by choice — and difficult to avoid getting ripped off.
To make sure you buy the best products for the best price, here are The Telegraph’s tips and tricks for when the bargain weekend comes around.
Use cashback to amplify your deal
Cashback sites allow you to get money back on purchases. Plenty of stores have their own cashback system — for example, Nectar points at Sainsbury’s.
These give you reward points which can then be redeemed against more shopping.
Other sites give you straightforward cashback on buying flights, holidays, and other purchases. Sites which do this include Quidco and Topcashback. Some credit cards also give cashback on purchases, either at specific shops or at all retailers.
Set up online accounts ahead of the big day
Get ready by signing up for online accounts with all the shops you might want to shop at. If you’re serious about bagging a bargain this Black Friday, store your details so you can get online fast without wasting precious time.
Use a credit, not debit, card to pay
The safest way to spend is by making use of your credit card to do your deals. This way, your bank will end up footing the bill — rather than you — if the transaction goes wrong.
Plus, if the products fail to arrive or aren’t as promised by the seller’s site, the card company has a liability and should refund you the money.
In practice, getting the bank to live up to this promise (known as “Section 75”, after the relevant clause in credit legislation) may not be that easy; however, it’s worth your energy.
If the website you are using is unfamiliar to you or you’re in any doubt, double check and take screen-grabs of the items or printouts. This way, if you have to prove to your bank that the item delivered wasn’t what you ordered, you have evidence to hand.
Haggle using live chat
Even though you’ll be up to your ears in deals come the start of Black Friday, there’s always a chance you could shave a little more off the price via online chat.
If you’re put off the idea of haggling because it seems awkward, have no fear: all you need to do is type the deal you want or discount code you’ve been given into the website’s live chat box. The worst that can happen is that you receive a no.
Asking for money off doesn’t work every time, but in December 2015 Telegraph Money managed to haggle £65 off a Dell laptop. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Grab an abandoned basket discount
A few retailers offer customers deals if they can see they have put items in their online shopping basket but not completed the purchase. This isn’t guaranteed but it’s worth trying, especially if you’re lukewarm about the item at the offered price.
Log in to the retailer’s website and and shop as normal. Then, instead of going through with the purchase, abandon your basket and close the window.
A few days later you might receive an email from the retailer enticing you back with money off your purchase. Retailers who have been known to offer this discount include Asda, Asos, H&M and Waitrose.
Get stalking on social media
Make sure you’re following all the brands you might want to shop at come Black Friday on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to hear about offers or further discounts.
Be careful though: there are plenty of fake deals to be found on Facebook and elsewhere. Fraudsters create attractive looking deals, which they post on Facebook asking users to ‘like’ and ‘share’ the advert to boost it to the top of news feeds and target a wider audience. Those who click through will be asked for personal details, which can be used for fraudulent purposes.
Plus, make sure the retailer accounts you are following are verified with a blue tick.
Keep an eye on any deals advertised to you on the messaging app Whatsapp, too. Action Fraud, the cybercrime reporting service, recently highlighted a scam which saw many users receive messages seemingly from their contacts inviting them to click on links to a Sainsbury’s and Topshop deal.
Use bookmarking to keep track
Organisation is everything on a shopping day as hectic as Black Friday. If you’re really invested in a purchase, chances are you will spend some time on the big day comparing prices across websites, reading reviews and checking email confirmations of purchases.
All web browsers have a “bookmark” function which you can later delete. There are also dedicated bookmarking services – such as Pinboard – that collate bookmarks across different browsers, connect Twitter accounts and, for a fee, have a host of other tools for the ultra-organised shopper.
Check Flubit for a better price
Flubit is a great way to save money if you’ve found the product you want to buy on Amazon. Enter the Amazon URL into Flubit’s generator and it might be able to find a better price elsewhere on the internet for you.
It can take up to three hours for an offer to come through and once received the offer is only available for a limited period of time.
Flubit, which receives a commission on each deal it facilitates, covers most categories of products. Although sometimes it admits Amazon has the best price on an item, it’s worth using if you can bear waiting for a few hours for the generator’s answer.
This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to get excited about a discount and fail to check if it’s cheaper elsewhere.
A simple search for the product under Google’s ‘Shopping’ tab should show you whether other retailers are offering the product at a better price than the site where you have seen it.
This works particularly well for electrical items, which are often discounted by different amounts on different sites.
If you don’t have time to check for different prices yourself, go to a price comparison site. My Supermarket lets you look at prices of items in different retailers to see where they are cheapest; plus, you can add an alert for any price rises or falls for specific products.
Sign up to newsletters
Some retailers will offer Black Friday discounts and exclusive offers ahead of time to members or registered users. Signing up to newsletters and making an account with retailers could get you access to these deals ahead of other customers.
Bear in mind you might become inundated with emails as soon as you do; to avoid feeling overwhelmed you can set up a filter system for emails from certain accounts.
Plus, some tips on what to avoid
Beware the ‘Click and Collect’ scam
In particular, be wary of click and collect emails following the big day. Tom Church, from special offer website Latest Deals, has warned Black Friday shoppers about emails asking you to click on a link and enter your details to rearrange a delivery.
If you receive an email asking for your credit card details to verify the delivery, be suspicious.
If the email doesn’t tell you what the ordered goods are, retrace your order trail and make a call to the company you’re expecting a parcel from to check they sent the email.
Keep an eye out for ‘derivative’ deals
A number of products on sale at major discounts may not be the ones you hoped for. Budget sellers often release so-called derivative products, which are items that look suspiciously similar to flagship products but are often made using cheaper material and lower specifications.
This is particularly important for electronic items, where it may not immediately be obvious that the components inside are different to what you would normally get.
Attention to detail is the only way to combat this. Double check model numbers and specifications of any item against what you are expecting. Plus, trust your gut: if the discount is huge, be suspicious.
Play it safe on eBay
When shopping on eBay, it’s always best to go with your gut: if a deal feels dodgy, it probably is. If a seller contacts you directly to offer you a better price than the one listed, be wary; likewise with sellers who have little or no selling history.
Always pay by Paypal on the auction site as most items are protected by the company’s Money Back Guarantee. If a seller wants you to pay by bank transfer or by using a transfer service like Moneygram or Western Union, say no. If you don’t, you will forfeit eBay’s protection.
Plus, beware cheap fakes while shopping on the site. While eBay doesn’t allow “counterfeit items, fakes, replicas, or unauthorised copies”, some do still slip through the net.
Check the discount
Just because a website tells you a product is available at a discount, doesn’t mean it actually is; big retailers have been exposed for misleading discount claims in the past.
For example, an item may gradually be reduced in price but the discount percentage quoted is in comparison to the original price.
A quick check elsewhere might reveal that the sale promoted by an online retailer is actually the same as the non-discounted price somewhere else. If you know what you want to buy on Black Friday already, it’s worth checking the prices on a range of sites today.