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The Boston Globe

Business

CONSUMER ALERT

In the frenzy, make sure Black Friday deals are real

The holiday shopping deluge is upon us — and a bit sooner than in the past. If you plan to engage in it, you need to be prepared.

Retailers and manufacturers are all about creating buzz. So, now Black Friday is creeping back to Thanksgiving Day at some major retailers. And they want consumers thinking that they will get the latest and greatest at incredible prices.

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But don’t miss the finer points of these deals in the frenzy. Trouble spots for consumers tend to be not understanding return policies, the terms of offers, whether the price is really a good deal, and even when, exactly, the sale begins. Timing could prove to be particularly tricky this year, said Edgar Dworsky, who runs the consumer website ConsumerWorld.org.

Major retailers will roll out different deals at different times; some might come when the doors first open, others later in the day. “It is unusual to have goods coming out at different hours,” said Dworsky, a former director of consumer education in the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “People, in essence, have to choose one or the other time to visit, or be forced to visit twice, and give up a whole night’s sleep.”

So, for bargain hunters it’s good practice to plan. That will help avoid at least some confusion. If you are intent on getting into the late Thanksgiving or Black Friday mix, review the deals and dig into the fine print.

Be particularly careful when a sale price includes a rebate. Rebates typically make the consumer take an extra step — and when that happens, a significant number of people leave money behind. Consider how good the deal would be if you didn’t factor in the rebate. And are you willing to wait for that check to arrive a couple of months down the road?

In addition to traditional newspaper ads, more deals are being offered via e-mail, on Facebook and Twitter. Take a look. It helps to know what you are looking to buy in advance rather than get sucked into impulse purchases.

As Dworsky said, “A low price on a lousy product is no bargain.”

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.

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