10 ways to shop smart this silly season

Still doing your Christmas shopping, or planning to head to the Boxing Day sales? Here's how to shop smart these holidays.

Woman with shopping bags at Christmas

1. Top price doesn’t guarantee top performance. Paying top dollar doesn’t always mean the product is better than a cheaper one. Our tests routinely find cheap products that perform just as well as, if not better, than ones that cost much more.

2. Forget the extended warranty. If you’re asked if you want an extended warranty with that new gadget, be aware that in most cases they’re not worth it. That’s because the Consumer Guarantees Act means retailers have to repair or replace faulty goods or refund your money.

3. Avoid dud gift cards. Too many gift cards have stingy expiry dates and end up becoming worthless before they can be used. If you’re giving a gift card, opt for one with no expiry date or that gives the recipient a decent amount of time to spend the money. Or give cash instead and avoid the expiry date hassle.

4. Don’t forget your chargeback rights. Bought something online from an overseas retailer and it never showed up? Or maybe it did but was nothing like the description? If the retailer refuses to put things right, get on to your bank about a credit card or debit card chargeback. If your claim is accepted, you’ll get your money back.

5. Know who’s responsible for damaged goods. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, retailers that arrange delivery have to ensure items arrive on time and in good condition. So if an item arrives damaged, you don’t have to muck about with the courier company – the shop must sort it out.

6. Find out where to shop for good service. There are some shops where you’re just likely to have a better experience. Our latest retailer satisfaction survey found it’s the little guys that do a better job at keeping their customers happy than the big chain stores.

7. It never hurts to ask. Leave your shyness at the door when you’re hunting for a deal and see what the salesperson is prepared to offer. Ask if the item you’re after will be on sale soon or what the store is prepared to throw in to sweeten the deal.

8. Think carefully before signing up for a “buy now, pay later” deal. The appeal at this time of year is understandable – you only ever have to shell out a fraction of the item’s cost upfront and pay off the rest over time. However, if you start missing payments, you’ll pay default fees. Steep interest charges with some of these deals can also leave a sting.

9. Add in an exchange card. While retailers have no obligation to take back a gift if the recipient doesn’t like it or you change your mind before giving it to them, some will do so in the interests of good customer relations. Always ask the retailer for an exchange card to go with the gift.

10. Check the Boxing Day deal really is a deal. It can be easy to get caught up in the hype of Boxing Day sales. If you’re about to buy something, do a quick price check online to make sure another shop isn’t offering it for cheaper. Price-comparison websites make this easier. If you make a spontaneous purchase then regret it, the retailer has no obligation to take the item back.

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