Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest shopping days of the year, and companies go all out with marketing.
Most brands save their best online deals for the weekend after Thanksgiving, giving consumers a chance to buy coveted items at slashed prices just in time for the holidays.
Whether you are online shopper (and you love Cyber Monday) or love the thrill of digging through a bargain bin (and love Black Friday), we suggest preparing yourself for this momentous shopping extravaganza with these tips:
1. Create a budget
Before you create your list, you need a carefully planned budget. This will further help you avoid those impulse purchases.
2. Make a list and check it twice
Shopping a sale can be dangerous, as the idea of markdowns can have you purchasing items you don’t need. To avoid spending on frivolous items, make a list and don’t deviate from it.
3. Check return policies
The downside to buying on final sale or clearance usually means no returns. Or, the time period for returns is short, so know before you go.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest shopping days of the year, and companies go all out with marketing
4. Dress appropriately
There is no need to dress to impress on Black Friday. Everyone is there for one reason: to shop. Sneakers and leggings are appropriate attire for efficient shopping. Also, it makes time in the fitting room quick and easy.
5. Bring cash for Black Friday
The line at the register can seem neverending on Black Friday. Don’t be the one that holds it up because of a faulty credit card.
6. Check the lay of the land
It is best to know the territory. Time spent looking for the electronics section is time lost.
7. Drive-by shopping
Finding a parking space can be nightmare. And by the time you find a spot, the store would be practically half empty. Arrange for a ride there and home.
8. Shop with your home computer on Cyber Monday
If Cyber Monday is your day to splurge, make sure you do it in the comfort of your home with your own computer. For security reasons, you don’t want to be shopping on a public computer.
9. Shop with a credit card or Paypalon Cyber Monday
Scams are common online, so make sure you avoid the heartache that comes with bank fraud—read: don’t use debit cards. Most credit cards come with anti-fraud protection. Paypal is another secure way to shop online.
10. Get Cyber Monday coupons in advance
Most websites have promo codes a few days before, offering even more of a discount on select items.
The United States could force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes under a bill that overwhelmingly passed a test vote in the Senate Monday.
Under current law, states can only require stores to collect sales taxes if the store has a physical presence in the state. As a result, many online sales are essentially tax-free, giving Internet retailers a big advantage over brick-and-mortar stores.
The bill would allow states to require online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. The sales taxes would be sent to the states where shoppers live.
The Senate voted 74 to 20 to begin debating the bill. If that level of support continues, the Senate could pass the bill as early as this week.
Supporters say the bill is about fairness for businesses and lost revenue for states.
Opponents say it would impose complicated regulations on retailers and doesn’t have enough protections for small businesses. Businesses with less than $1 million a year in online sales would be exempt.
“I believe it is important to level the playing field for all retailers,” said Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the bill’s main sponsor.
“We should not be subsidizing some taxpayers at the expense of others.”
The United States could force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes under a bill that overwhelmingly passed a test vote in the Senate
In many states, shoppers are required to pay unpaid sales tax when they file their state income tax returns. However, states complain that few people comply.
“I do know about three people that comply with that,” Mike Enzi said.
President Barack Obama supports the bill, but its fate is uncertain in the House, where some Republicans regard it as a tax increase.
Heritage Action for America, the activist arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, opposes the bill and will count the vote in its legislative scorecard.
Many of the nation’s governors – Republicans and Democrats – have been lobbying the federal government for years for the authority to collect sales taxes from online sales, said Dan Crippen, executive director of the National Governors Association.
Those efforts intensified when state tax revenues took hit from the recession and the slow economic recovery.
“It’s a matter of equity for businesses,” Dan Crippen said.
“It’s a matter of revenue for states.”
The bill pits brick-and-mortar stores like Wal-Mart against online services such as eBay.
The National Retail federation supports it. And Amazon.com, which initially fought efforts in some states to make it collect sales taxes, supports it, too.
“Amazon.com has long supported a simplified nationwide approach that is evenhandedly applied and applicable to all but the smallest volume sellers,” Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy said in a recent letter to senators.
On the other side, eBay has been rallying customers to oppose the bill.
“I hope you agree that imposing unnecessary tax burdens on small online businesses is a bad idea,” eBay president and CEO John Donahoe said in a letter to customers.
“Join us in letting your Members of Congress know they should protect small online businesses, not potentially put them out of business.”
The bill is also opposed by senators from states that have no sales tax, including Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
“Supporters of this online sales tax bill are trying to muscle it through before senators find out how disastrous it would be for businesses in their states,” Kelly Ayotte said.
“I will fight this power grab every step of the way to protect small online businesses in New Hampshire and across the nation.”
Max Baucus said the bill would require relatively small Internet retailers to comply with sales tax laws in thousands of jurisdictions.
“This legislation doesn’t help businesses expand and grow and hire more employees,” he said.
“Instead, it forces small businesses to hire expensive lawyers and accountants to deal with the burdensome paperwork and added complexity of tax rules and filings across multiple states.”
But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the bill requires participating states to make it relatively easy for Internet retailers to comply.
States must provide free computer software to help retailers calculate sales taxes, based on where shoppers live.
States must also establish a single entity to receive Internet sales tax revenue, so retailers don’t have to send them to individual counties or cities.
“We’re way beyond the quilt pen and ledger days,” Dick Durbin said.
“Thanks to computers and thanks to software it is not that complex.”
Best Buy, the largest U.S. specialty electronics retailer, has alerted some customers that it will not be able to fill their online orders, just days before Christmas.
Best Buy said late Wednesday that “overwhelming demand for some products from Bestbuy.com has led to a problem redeeming online orders made in November and December”.
Meanwhile, the iconic upscale New York department store Barneys said a number of its online orders were canceled because of technical glitch.
Neither Best Buy nor Barneys are saying exactly how many customers were affected.
The shortages are a black eye for Best Buy, which has beefed up its online campaign to fight off intense competition from online retailers and discount stores. And the holiday season is crucial for retailers like Best Buy because it can make up to 40% of annual sales.
Some glitches should not be a surprise with such a massive surge in online shopping this year, analysts said, but there is a risk of a backlash.
“It is a hiccup for the company,” said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy.
“They were kind of behind the curve building out their online channel. They’ve done a good job investing in it, but if you make a lot of rapid changes, inevitably there are going to be growing pains.”
“The canceled orders probably won’t make a big difference for Best Buy’s holiday sales this year, but it may lead to more customers looking elsewhere in the future,” he said.
“The risk is any consumers affected by canceled orders will be willing to explore other alternatives for online shopping in years to come,” R.J. Hottovy said.
Online sales are up 15% to $32 billion so far this holiday season, while total sales are up just 2.5%.
Even though online sales are a huge boon for retailer, the shift has already created some problems.
Discount retailer Target Corp’s site crashed in September because of overwhelming demand for Missoni for Target, a limited designer line of clothing, home goods and accessories.
Best Buy benefitted when its now-defunct rival Circuit City went out of business more than a year ago, but its suffering as Americans hold off on big ticket items and search for deals online and at discounters.
In order to compete, Best Buy has expanded its online offerings, cut back on square footage in the U.S. by closing stores and sought to expand internationally. In its most recent third quarter ending November 26, Best Buy said its net income fell 29% as it cut prices in popular categories such as tablets and TVs to drive sales and traffic during the holiday season.
Best Buy shares rose 8 cents to $22.96 in midday trading.
Barneys sent out e-mails to some customers with the following message:
“This technical issue posed a significant challenge for our IT department and in turn caused some lengthy delays in responding to both order requests and emails and so I apologize as well for the lateness of this reply… but nonetheless your order was canceled as we no longer have the inventory to fulfill it.”