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Black Friday Traps You Should  Avoid

Black Friday weekend, the Super Bowl of the holiday shopping season, is upon us.

Women with Sale bags
Getty Images
Women with Sale bags

But in the frenzy of the weekend, it's easy to fall into some common traps. Here’s a primer on which pitfalls to avoid and tips on how to snag the best deals—and hold on to your sanity—during the Thanksgiving-weekend shopping bonanza.

Forget about doorbusters. Although retailers are still trying to keep shoppers captive to the mad rush to the stores on Black Friday weekend for that big discount on the hottest merchandise, don't fall for it.

“Consumers have much more power then they think,” said Brad Wilson, founder and editor-in-chief of BradsDeals.com, the coupon web site.

Today, the savvy shopper can find most of what’s on their holiday gift list online.

That’s because “probably 95 percent of the deals offered by the big box stores like Wal-Mart , Target and Best Buy , are online as well,” he said.

While it’s wise to first check the Web for limited-quantity items, don’t focus on scoring those doorbusters advertised in store circulars online or in the store.

“Even if the store has 10, 20 or 50 of the items you’re looking for, the odds are you’re going to miss out,” he said. But don’t fret, you’re likely to find a similar item and deal at another store that’s not in limited-quantity.

More often than not, there is more than one version of that must-have item, said Greg Daugherty, executive editor of Consumer Reports. “The more you’re committed to one particular model, the less room there is to get a great deal on it.”

Mine price comparison Web sites. Scour price-comparison Web sites to get educated on the lowest prices for the items on your gift list.

Consumer Reports cited Pricegrabber.comas its favorite, as the site best identified the stores offering the lowest prices on a sampling of items. The site also includes seller ratings, electronic reviews and if you don’t see a low enough price, you can click on “Add Price Alert,” and Pricegrabber will send you an email if the price drops. But it also gave high marks to Google, Bing, and Nexttag.com.

Make a plan. Covering your coffee table with store circulars on Thanksgiving Day is so last decade. Form a strategy early using the leaked-ads, coupon and deal information found on Web sites. Most retailers leak their black Friday circulars days and weeks ahead of the big event on sites such as Blackfriday.org, Blackfriday.com and Blackfriday.info, which operate during the holiday season, said Mike Boylston, chief marketing officer for J.C. Penney , which leaked its Black Friday circular on Nov. 12.

“Find the deals there, and plan early,” he said.

In addition, tap sites like Bradsdeals and Dealnews.com.

While both feature retailers’ Black Friday ads, Bradsdeals.com pledges to offer every store coupon imaginable—which will sweeten your deal even further.

“People forget to look for coupons before they go to the store,” cheating themselves out of additional savings, Bradsdeals’s Wilson said.

Monitor Dealnews, which alerts shoppers on big deals across the retail landscape, such as $20 off popular video games like "Call of Duty: Black Ops".

Tap sites like Amazon, Overstock and Buy.comfor great deals on a range of consumer products.

Also, look to product-specific sites such as Skinstore.comfor discounted health and beauty products, and Blue Nile for diamonds and fine jewelry.

Make Amazon your consumer electronics store. Amazon tends to match offers from rivals Walmart.comand Bestbuy.comon everything from laptops to HDTVs. And this year, look for the retailer to be aggressive on pricing for hot tickets such as eBook readers and gaming systems like Microsoft's Xbox.

If Best Buy or Wal-Mart offers a gaming system with a bundled offer, such as the Xbox360 with a discounted Kinect controller or a free game. Check out Amazon for an identical bundles, said Daniel de Grandpe, chief executive officer of Dealnews.

What’s more, Amazon charges sales tax in far fewer states than other retailers.

Block and Tackle. If brick-and-mortar holiday shopping is part of your Black Friday weekend tradition, visit stores a day or two in advance to find out where the items are.

Divide and conquer. Go with a group “so you can attack separate sections of the same store,” which will increase your chances of snatching doorbusters, Wilson said.

Don’t get suckered into buying extended warrantees. They are almost always a waste of money, Daugherty said. “It’s an ignorant man’s insurance policy.”

If a product breaks, it usually happens during the manufacturer’s warrantee or years from now, long after the extended warrantee has expired. What’s more, some credit cards already double the life of a manufacturer’s warrantee.

Be informed about return policies. Due to return fraud, many stores now have stricter return policies, so know their rules. Hold on to receipts, and keep products in their packaging. If you don’t, stores might not accept the return or charge you a restocking fee, Daugherty said.

Having said that, most retailers give shoppers ample time—at least 30 days—to return merchandise, and extend their return date during the holidays.

Consumer Nation