How Retailers Make The Most Of Black Friday
More money is spent on the day after Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. It's called Black Friday because on that day retailers' bottom lines turn from red to black – their losses turn to profits as consumers go on a spending spree, lured by bargain pricing.

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Retailers have a bag of tricks and marketing ploys to maximize their profits, and the unwary consumer may not be aware of them. So, here are some of the strategies used by major retailers to make the most of Black Friday, with tips on how to outsmart them and get the most for your money. (For additional information on how people shop, see Consumer Spending As A Market Indicator.)

Small Print Exclusions, Time Limitations and Deadlines
Ads, circulars and coupons will advertise bargain prices, but the small print will announce certain restrictions. For example, a deeply discounted price on an item will remain in effect only until noon, or earlier. If you purchase the item after the deadline, there's no discount. The best bargains are available only to the "early birds." So, read the small print to understand conditions of the deal.

Low-Cost, Big-Ticket Products That Need Upgrades
Retailers will advertise big-ticket items at very low prices, but the product will be a bare-bones, no frills version. The product will need upgrades, additional parts or software options to make it function as desired. Computers are often advertised at discounted prices, but they come without the necessary accessories and programs required for practical use.

No Ad, No Deal
Attractive bargain prices may be advertised, but if the consumer doesn't show that ad at the store, the price will not be honored. If such an ad drew you to the store, take that ad with you. Clip it from the newspaper or magazine or print it out from your computer.

Sorry, No Returns
Once a bargain-priced sale has been made, many retailers will not accept returns. Research the store policy on returns, and be sure you understand all the details. If a store has a no return policy, or has difficult conditions for returning a product, it's probably not wise to buy anything from that store. Also, watch for limited deadlines on returns or exchanges. Retailers in recent years have shortened the period in which they allow consumers to return or exchange a product.

Paying with Cash May Not Be Your Best Option
You may prefer to pay cash for your purchases and avoid paying credit card interest. Some retailers may offer a discount for cash payments. Once that money leaves your hands, it may be difficult if not impossible to remedy certain post-sale problems. Some credit card firms offer warranty coverage, sale price protection and return protection. Warranty coverage may include a free warranty at twice or three times a manufacturer's warranty on any product purchased with the credit card. Sales price protection, provided by some credit card companies, will return money to you if a product purchased with the card is reduced in price during a specified time period. A guaranteed return policy for as much as 90 days, may be offered by your credit card company. Many retailers will not accept returns beyond 30 days. (For more on warranties, check out Extended Warranties: Should You Take The Bait.)

The Bottom Line
Do your homework. Research the internet and print media for the best deals. Read the small print in everything, including your credit card contract. The ads and coupons are loaded with exclusions, restrictions, deadlines and other conditions. Sales clerks will not accept an "I didn't know" excuse if you show up too late for the advertised bargain. As for your credit card contract, scrutinize it top to bottom for special deals such as warranties and sale price protection that are advantageous. Armed with this knowledge, if you follow through, you'll get the best possible deals.

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