The Federal Trade Commission, the organization that thinks it’s perfectly okay for companies like Equifax to control people’s lives with impunity, recently put out their mostly helpful tips for shopping during the holiday season. Below, we enlist our heaviest dose of snark to look at the holiday shopping tips from the FTC.
1. Put Gifts You Can’t Afford on Layaway
This is the dumbest suggestion on the list. In case you aren’t familiar with layaway, this is a system where you make a down payment on an item and slowly pay the rest of the price over time. Once you pay for the product in full, you get to have it. So, maybe you can explain this to the gift recipient and give them a picture of the merchandise you plan on getting them in March. A better idea is to not spend beyond your means. The people you care about will understand.
2. Make Sure You Get Everything You Order
The rest of the tips are legit, including this one. I do a lot of my holiday shopping online. I mostly go to the deals on Amazon and look for gifts that vaguely fit people on my list. But, much like a fallen wonton at a Chinese buffet, it’s easy to lose track of the many items. The FTC has a whole page about what you can do if you are charged for products you never received.
3. Save Your Receipts
This is a good practice in general, and it’s incredibly easy to do when you shop online. But, if you are shopping offline, you need receipts to return items and to take advantage of warranties.
4. Watch out for Phishermen
The FTC tells us to watch out for unexpected posts, texts, or emails that can lead to evil websites trying to get you to take advantage of bogus bargains when you shop online. I’m not sure what they’re trying to say here. A good rule of thumb is to look at the URL of the sites you are visiting before you enter any personal information. If it isn’t a site you trust, be wary.
5. Don’t Give Blood Diamonds
Basically, the FTC wants you to research jewelry before buying it so you can get good value and quality. I’d just like to pile on here and suggest that you know where the materials for the jewelry are coming from. For instance, just don’t buy diamonds ever.
6. Don’t Get Overcharged
I wrote a long article about checking your receipts and making sure retailers don’t overcharge you. In most states, you are protected from stores offering you one price and charging you another. Know your rights and use them.
Rebates are pretty rare, but who doesn’t like free money? The sweetest ones are redeemable immediately. Other ones require you to buy a pen to fill out paperwork, buy envelopes to mail the rebate in, buy a stamp to put on the envelope, and walk all the way to your mailbox. You will immediately end up on a mailing list, and your rebate will arrive in approximately six months.
8. Compare Prices
If you buy the first item you see regardless of price, you are going to frivolously waste lots of cash money. Take a deep breath, wipe your hands on your pants, and spend a few minutes comparing prices online and at physical brick-and-mortar stores.
9. Make a Budget
I’ve already covered this in detail. Remember to include room in your budget for wrapping paper, traveling, cards, and eating at Sizzler.
10. Carefully Consider Customer Reviews
Now, the Feds are making some sense! They say that you should search online for info from sources you trust (e.g., Brains Report) before you buy based on reviews. And, it’s also a good idea to compare reviews on several websites. Here are the ones we trust.
If you know anyone who always gets screwed over during the holidays, please be sure to share this with them.