12 Tips For Unwanted/Crappy Christmas Purchases: Just Remember 'Bitterwallet'!
Are you getting carried away with buying stuff this christmas? You are certainly not the only one.
Impulse purchases without reading the small print is just... human nature. But waking up with a Des O'Connor Christmas CD in your lap with a bottle of whisky on Boxing Day is embarrassing, especially when you know the photos are going to appear on Facebook soon.
There are a few things you can do to make sure you don't overspend this christmas, and ease the humiliation of refunding gifts you've fake smiled your way through receiving them. So here's 12 tips we've compiled that will hopefully help you take some stress away when shopping this Christmas while boosting your success rates at returning or exchange goods, and save you from buyer's remorse. To help you remember all 12, simply recite the mnemonic 'B i t t e r w a l l e t', preferably along to a good xmas tune:
B is to Be Honest: You may not like the '2 Men Walk Into a Bar' joke book that Grandma got you, but there's no need to tell the Borders shop assistant that she got it there (especially when you know grandma only shops at PoundLand.) I've had times where I've exchanged items in the past in stores that I'm certain no longer even stock the item, simply by being honest and telling the customer service people that I got it as a gift, so I'm not sure if it's even from their store. Try it. If it doesn't work for you, revert to wearing a disguise and start yelling at the assistants at the top of your lungs demanding a refund + compensation. Both approaches have its pros and cons (no pun intended). We won't judge.
I is for Intent: If you are buying something for someone else, make sure (1) it is appropriate for them (i.e. no 3G iphones for children under the age of 10 please, it will just make the rest of us jealous) (2) they will use it. If you're buying food, make sure you check the used by date. A rule of thumb that a friend of mine taught me is for every £100 spent, wait 1 day to see if you still want the item. I've used it ever since. So for a £500 40" LCD HDTV, 5 days sounds just about right before binging through an all nighter of 24 on Blu-Ray. Worked for me.
T is for Trading Standards: Hopefully you won't need 'em party poopers, but it's always useful to bear this as the 'get out of jail card'. You can contact them directly via the Trading Standards website, or log on to www.consumerdirect.gov.uk. More importantly, always what you're buying carefully in the shop. Make sure it's not damaged with no tears or marks. This is especially important when you're buying in a sale.
E is for Expectations: As much of an optimist as I am, I always expect the unexpected. Never have high expectations, and expect your money back, especially before a purchase. Of course we are all mostly impulsive buyers, and will emotionally rationalise good reason for the purchase. Try to logically consider the price point and cost-benefit should you wish to resell the item again on eBay/Gumtree/HUKD someday. I've purchased laptops at Dixons in BAA airports with their '90 day refund/exchange policies', only to run into issues when returning at day 89.
R is for Receipts and Rights: For all accounting purposes, try to always keep a copy of your receipts. Obviously if your friend bought you a gift, they probably don't want to show you the BOGOF 75% off tag from ASDA, nor will you be able to prove it on the credit card. But as a consumer, you have certain rights whether you buy your item from the high street or the local del boy. As per Cialdini principles of psychology, start by asking a refund, then go down to an exchange. If you can't find anything you want to exchange, ask for a gift voucher of equivalent value that you can use at a later date.
W is for Wrapping: Before you rip off the original wrapping in a bout of excitement, decide if you really want to keep the item. For DVDs and CDs, you will have more difficulty returning it if the cellophane are removed. Same with clothing - keep the price tag on, and try not to leave cigarette burn marks or half a litre of turkey gravy stained with red wine on Boxing day. Also, I've been refused refunds, only to buy something small from the shop again, and successfully returning it in the original carrier bag the very next day. Sneaky extra touch, but I like.
A is to Avoid: If possible, avoid buying from car boot sales and temporary outlets. You don't know if they will still be there in the New Year. Most complaints made to TS arise from faulty/defective items bought in these stores. As an ex-eBay powerseller junkie, auction sites can be tricky to get a refund, no matter what 'buyer protection' policy you have read about. But that's for a whole another post...
L is to Look Around: The only people that should be rushing to get the purchase done with are retailers and sellers. As a calm and logical bargain hunting buyer, make sure you do your homework and research first. An item at Waterstones may be available at WHSmith, Blackwells or Borders for 40% of the markup. And check online. DAFS (aka 'do a f**king search') on HUKD. I've found items dating months back that have still not expired, including my awesome DeLonghi microwave grill oven. Most HUKDers are also awesome people and will be happy to help out and vice versa. Finally, if you buy online, check for the delivery date; no point in getting your Christmas gifts on Boxing day or beyond!
L is for Low Interest: We've mentioned to buy with intention, so you really shouldn't be stretching into debt. But if you're getting financing, make sure you use a credit/store card without a high interest rate. Apply for a 0% APR card now, and you may get it just in time to get interest free shopping done. Note that we do not advocate this approach! But worst case scenario...
E is for Email: Don't just call them to ask about refund policy. Get your confirmation in writing. If you spoke with someone, get their name. Use that name if you run into problems at the shop. The name thing has saved me a few times.
T is for Think Twice: This sums it up. Always think twice before buying, especially on your credit card. Last thing you want is to spend most of 2009 paying back debts on your cards. Remember that by law, they don't have to refund your goods if you didn't buy the item, and if the item isn't wrongly described nor defective. But at xmas, most stores do adopt a more flexible approach about this. But use this as a last resort.
In Conclusion: Just beware, think twice, and DAFS. My 2 Ps.