5 Holiday Retail Tricks to Steer Clear Of

broken ornamentLet's face it, despite your best savings intentions, shopping is a part of the holiday season. That said, we urge you to be especially careful of retail gimmicks.

Restocking Fees

Want to return that purchase? It can cost you. Retailers are increasingly charging "restocking fees," which can be 10 to 25% of the original purchase price, if you try to return something you've opened.The practice is pervasive among online and electronics retailers. If you do get hit, try to negotiate a reduced fee.

Unnecessary Warranties

Consumer Reports estimates that this holiday season shoppers will spend up to $1.2 billion on extended warranties/service plans, an offer that can jack up prices by up to 50%. Don't bother. The product is probably covered by the standard manufacturer's warranty (not to mention that some credit cards offer complimentary additional coverage, if you buy the product using that card). And if it should break after that, the cost of repairs averages about the same as an extended warranty.

Gift Cards

The convenience can be deceptive. Gift cards come with all sorts of fees for buying them, not cashing them in by a certain date and even for using them. Plus, many have expiration dates. New federal rules address these issues but be sure to ask about the fine print before you invest in a gift card.

Promotional Bundle Sales

Stores dangle deep discounted merchandise to lure customers into their stores, such as offering 50% off a DVD player with the purchase of a TV, or a free printer with a computer purchase. But, what happens if you want a refund? The total value of the “free” item will be subtracted from the refund, which means you’ll end up paying much more than what you expected to save.

Not-so-Free Goodies

Malls and individual stores offer all sort of holiday cheer to get you inside and shopping: hot chocolate, freshly baked cookies, Christmas Carolers, elves ... everything short of first class trips to the North Pole. That's nice and festive, but don't get carried away. Remember, just because someone gives you a reindeer cookie doesn't mean that you have to buy their reindeer sweater!

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