Gift Buying Tips and Happy Returns

 

Holiday Gift Buying Tips & Shopping Tips

It’s beginning to look a lot like shopping!

“Every gift which is given, even though it be small, is great if given with affection.”

Pindar (ca. 522 – 443 ? B.C.) Greek lyric poet remembered especially for his Odes.

The fabled Friday after Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday shopping season but is NOT the busiest day.

The day after Thanksgiving is usually in the middle of the top ten days. The busiest is the Saturday before Christmas!

Most guys start shopping Christmas Eve and make a party out of it.

This year with a little planning you can shop smart and still hit the stores December 24th just for the Holiday atmosphere with all your shopping finished.

Shopping efficiently for Holiday gift giving is just a matter of being prepared and disciplined. 

Here are some shopping tips to help make it easier this year:

First Do Your Gift Buying Research

  • Make a list, check it twice, and include a budget limit for the gift!!  Mark exactly how much you intend to spend for each person. (See the suggested limits for the service people on your list).  If you can objectively purchase the items off your list and leave the store you’ll be less tempted to go hog wild.  And speaking of temptation, try not to get wrapped up in the Christmas music, free drinks, the smell of cinnamon and cloves, and red gift displays, all designed to entice you to spend money.

  • If buying for others, carry updated size information with you. This is especially important for kids, who can shoot up several inches from one year to the next.

And speaking of other people’s kids, when looking for gifts for nieces, nephews, grandkids or your friends’ children, it’s a good idea to talk with the parents first to see what little Tyler and Brianna already have, and what they need.

Also ask if there are certain things they’re not allowed to wear, such as belly shirts or baggy pants.

Here are some additional money-saving tips:

  • Steer clear of “buy now, pay later” deals. Only spend what you can afford today.
  • Limit yourself to 2 credit cards so that you can keep track of your credit card bills.
  • Keep all bills and receipts.
  • Rather than buying Holiday cards, opt for e-cards.

Stuck on the perfect gift? 

gift buying for christmasThink about the gift; don’t be too personal even with someone you’re very personal with!!

Would you want someone else (besides your mother) buying your lingerie, ‘err underwear??

Keep an open mind.  There are some perfect gift packages that you never see other times of the year.

People with cats and dogs have a lot of things with cats and dogs on them (sweaters, scarves), given to them by well-meaning people who think they don’t have enough cat and dog things.

Trust us, they have enough cat and dog things.

When in doubt, give a gift certificate from a store you’re sure the recipient likes.

Yes, it may be a cop-out, but you won’t be met with that pained, forced smile when Aunt Suzy opens your present only to find a pair of bedroom slippers–the seventh pair she’s received that day.
christmas stocking gifts
Don’t forget the paper deliverer, hair stylist, insurance person, secretary, and all the “little people” who make your life easier and are expecting a gift from you!

Tips areOK for someone who is in the service industry, but tips may be considered an insult to a professional or salaried (teacher) person, so give a small gift to them.

Some suggested limits:

Cleaning service — small gifts or $5 to $20

Newspaper delivery — $5 to $10

Postal Deliverer — can not accept cash but  small gifts (under $20) are OK

Apt. building manager — $20 to $100

Baby sitter – one to three nights pay

Hair Stylist – the cost of a typical session.

Gardner – the cost of a typical session.

Out There!

  • Try smaller specialty stores where you might actually be helped before you succumb to the big, busy Department stores.   It’s easier to get to know the manager of a small store, which helps for volume discounts, free gift-wrapping and other special treatment.
  • Shop early in the day when the stores are less crowded and you might have a better chance of getting help.
  • Shop in bookstores and large drug stores.  Almost everyone on your list would be happy with a book, or calendar and the range of prices will fit your budget.   The drug stores are also a great hunting ground.  They are filled this time of year with treasures from unique holiday gifts to electronic gadgets.
  • Ask for a “gift receipt” which doesn’t show the price but allows the receiver to easily exchange or return your gift.
  • Don’t underestimate the drag coefficient. Lots of things can slow you down–backpacks, pets, a bunch of buddies and sometimes your lady.
  • Think security.  Unfortunately it’s part of the season, so be aware, dress down, leave the Rolex at home, remember where you park your car and walk confidently to it with your key in hand, don’t overload yourself with packages, shop with someone else (70% less chance of problem than when alone), take one credit card and very little cash (keep them in your front pockets).  If you Valet Park give up your valet key only, not your house key and take your cell phone with you.
  • To beat parking-lot rage, position your car near an elevator. If a driver’s snail-like pace makes you wish a pox on her SUV, her children and her children’s children, valet is OK during the holidays. With the amount of money you’re already spending, you think an extra five bucks is going to make a difference?
  • Timing is everything.  Avoid Saturdays at all costs.  Avoid the lunch hour and the two hours right after work.  Early, late and during the dinner hour are good.  Check for Holiday hours.  Stores may open earlier than normal and most people don’t realize that.  You’ll have the store and the salespeople to yourself.
  • Use the telephone.  If you’ve chosen an item why not call the stores from the comfort of your home or office.  Is the item in stock?  What’s the best price?
  • It’s tough for men, but make it easy on yourself and use the salespeople.  Grab one and ask directions to the items for which you’re shopping, ask them for suggestions, make them your personal shopper.

Battle for bargains!   Negotiate.

  • Retailers really need your business.  They can’t afford for you to go to their competition so you may be able to talk your way to even lower prices than advertised. Ask if they can do better than that price.  Ask if they have the authority to offer a discount.  People don’t like to say they don’t have the authority and may discount to prove it to you!!

You may have the best chance to get a lower price if you go into a store at day’s end, or at the end of the month. If the store needs to get that sale, it’ll be more likely to give you the price that you want.

  • Arm yourself with information. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to do your homework, especially when buying big-ticket items.   Find out what items are selling for elsewhere and ask your retailer to beat the lowest price.
  • Play Dumb. If you think reading the tax code is difficult, try making sense of discount certificates and coupons.   Insist to anyone who rings you up anywhere that you have a coupon; you’re just not sure where you left it (the Bentley, the Jag, the Beemer?).   If there’s a special offer to be had–and they have even a smidgen of holiday spirit–you’ll get a discount. If a salesperson sees you as an intellectual equal, he or she may feel challenged by your attempt at getting a deal and may feel the need to ‘outwit’ you. It’s usually better to come off as less intelligent to avoid this unwanted competition. Note: this doesn’t mean you should pretend not to be informed. Still mention prices offered by competitors and such, but be humble in your approach.
  • Be persistent. Being a ‘broken record’ may wear down wary salespeople eager to make a sale.

The Best Solution may be just to shop from home.

You can wear your pajamas and shop at 3 AM if you like!  You can get just about anything on the Internet.

Plus you can get it gift-wrapped, include a card and send it directly to the person’s home!

Smart Internet Shopping: 

  • Deal with companies you know.   Buying online requires some extra precautions, simply because anyone can set up a legitimate-looking Web site and dupe people into thinking the site is a real retailer. And even if the business itself is legit, there’s still the matter of whether the company normally delivers orders on time, provides strong customer service, and so on.   Avoid web sites that send unsolicited emails.
  • But pay attention to the e-mails you get from the Brands you like.  There may be some great deals there!
  • Make sure you know the e-tailer’s return policy before you buy.
  • The Internet is proving to be quite secure so don’t worry about using your credit card number.  Just look for the padlock symbol that indicates you’re on a secure server.  Never give your out your social security number or a password. The credit card is your friend when you’re shopping online.  Cryptographic technology makes it very safe to transfer a credit card number via the Web.  Plus using a credit card helps ensure that your products will be shipped right away, because there’s little waiting time for the merchant to verify payment. Also, if a site makes a billing goof and overcharges you, you can contest the charges with your credit card issuer. And in the unlikely event that someone does get hold of your credit card number and runs up charges on your account, you’re liable for a maximum of only $50 under federal law.

If you’re still worried about fraud, get a separate credit card with a low spending limit for use when shopping online.

Some card issuers allow you to set up a special password to shop online, such as Verified by Visa.

Others, such as American Express will give you random numbers, good for only one purchase.

Most other payment methods are best avoided. Debit cards, or “check cards,” present a special problem, because they behave like credit cards, but they don’t offer the same protections.

Your money is deducted from your bank account right away and, even more important, some of these cards don’t have the same liability limits for fraudulent charges that credit cards have.

The emergence of services like PayPal, which lets you pay private sellers using your credit card through an intermediary, has given buyers a much safer choice.

Many sites that let private sellers buy directly from each other now offer their own services that let you complete transactions via credit card.

But still check your credit card and bank statements regularly for any unauthorized withdrawals.

  • Keep copies of your orders and confirmation numbers.
  • The same precautions and advantages go for catalogue sales and most stores will take telephone orders.
  • If you’re not doing your purchases online, at least you can use the Internet to research which products are available. Since most retailers have a Web site, you can browse through the products and catalogues online, and be one step ahead of the game once you venture out to the stores.

Remember you’re a man, with the genes of a prehistoric hunter, now get out there and shop!

You aren’t the only one that needs to buy gifts for others. The closer it gets towards the big day, the more the stores will look like a room full of Britney Spears fans.

Enjoy your shopping; even The Grinch ends up enjoying the Holidays after all.

“As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.” — Victor Hugo

Many Happy Returns

I hope everyone gets exactly what they want for the holidays and in the right size!

If you didn’t get what you want, here are some tips for returning and/or exchanging that hideous gift.

First, the bad news! It’s a harsh new world. Even the “easy” stores are getting tough this year with customer returns.

After years of cheerfully giving out credit for worn, and even stained clothing, retailers are learning how to say “no”!

A less than great retail year means that the stores have to start looking at their profit over customer service.

Of all retail purchases, 6% are returned each year.

A growing proportion of returns are from customers trying to pull off a scam, like returning a large screen TV the day after the Super Bowl.

Return policies are being revised to require receipts and many companies are charging a 15% restocking fee!

The superstar in the retail trade for cheerful returns was Nordstrom’s Dept.

Store, where legend had it that a clerk called a supervisor to confirm a customer shoplifting. When the customer brazenly brought the goods up to the cashier for credit, the supervisor approved it!!

Most Internet and mail order companies are still doing “no-questions-asked” type of return that may still be necessary as an incentive to do business.

Plus if the online/mail order business also has a retail store you can return items to the stores in most cases.

  • Receipt: If you have a receipt it will be easier, but that’s not always possible especially if it’s from Aunt Sadie who lives three states away.
    With no receipt you may be offered a store credit. Be aware that after the sales start you may only get the sale price as a credit, not the original price. You may also have to opt for credit if all the items are sold out even if you only want a different size.
    Even if you have your receipt an easy return isn’t a done deal. Some sores Some stores require a return within 30 to 90 days, and/or are mailing refund checks instead of issuing cash at the stores.The credit card con (not really a con, you’re just getting back what is rightfully yours, right?)If stores only allow a return for store credit only, ask that the credit be put on the stores credit gift returns through their in-store charge accounts. Federal law requires card issuers to pay back positive balances to cardholders who ask!However, some stores are on to this and disallowing the credit to your in-store card.
  • Timing: Try to make the return as soon after the Holidays as possible. You’ll have a better chance if the store still recognizes the goods.
  • Box: Keep the original box; sometimes the store will have little notes on the inside of the box, which makes their return paperwork easier. If you don’t have the box, please take the item back in a sack, another box, something! The security guys are still hyper; you don’t want to excite them.
  • Dress nicely (you’ve been paying attention to this web site haven’t you!). Even wear the symbols of authority (tie and jacket) if you expect a hassle.
  • Demeanor: Be pleasant, and charming. The clerks are tired, they often see a return as lost commission or just a paperwork pain, so keep smiling, express your request in quiet, firm tones, repeating if necessary. Ask to see the manager if things aren’t going your way.

If you can’t return the item, don’t despair.

Sell it to your friends on the AskAndy SALES Forum!

OR take the gift to work and put a reasonable price on it. It might be just what one of your co-workers wanted.

— Andy Gilchrist