Sun, May 26, 2024

Help from Augusta & Palmetto expert on Cyber Monday

Fire up your computers and grab your credit cards. Today is Cyber Monday, a day when your Christmas shopping can be done from your couch while wearing your jammies.

Cyber Monday was coined in Nov. 2005 by the National Retail Federation, a time when online shopping was still in its infancy. Since then, it has grown into one of the biggest shopping days of the holiday season.

According to the website, www.blackfriday.com, in 2022, shoppers spent an estimated 11.3 billion on Cyber Monday. That compared to $9.12 billion. Bloomberg, in a Nov. 20 report, said the trend is expected to continue, with consumers spending an average of $567 between the two days. That’s an increase of 13% over last year.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) said to make sure your computer is protected before you begin web surfing.

“I want to make sure that consumers are aware to make sure that your antivirus software is up to date when shopping online. Do a price check before you buy, make sure you compare prices and make sure the price is reasonable, and that it’s not too good to be true,” advised Hunter Jones, Director of Business Services for the CSRA BBB.

While enjoying the convenience and fun of shopping online, experts caution customers to be alert to potential scams, including websites that look legitimate but are not. Make sure the name of the business is spelled correctly and there is verified contact information along with customer service numbers.

When you finalize your choices, check the website address. Make sure it begins with “https,” an indication it is a secure site. The BBB advises using a credit card, rather than your debit card. Credit cards offer a higher level of protection, especially if you need to dispute a charge.

“You need to make sure that you’re understanding any return policies, how that will be affected with any sales,” added Jones. “If there’s a closeout sale, make sure that you’re aware of any kind of return policies. And certainly, when shopping on Cyber Monday, be aware of any kind of phishing scams. That’s unsolicited emails, text calls, or letters, maybe wanting you to shop for something.

If you feel you may have been scammed, report it immediately to your credit card company. You can also report it to the BBB (www.bbb.org) and file a complaint at www.ic3.gov. That is the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is operated by the FBI.

One way to maximize your savings is to enroll in reward and loyalty programs businesses and credit card companies offer. The Black Friday website offers an extensive list of Cyber Monday specials with links directly to the businesses.

There is also a one-stop shopping site for small businesses in South Carolina.

We Shop SC (www.weshopsc.com) is a partnership with the Municipal Association of South Carolina, Main Street South Carolina, and Beyond Main. Its purpose is to help small businesses across the Palmetto State, from the smallest communities to the largest metropolitan cities, have an online option to market their products.

Jenny Boulware of Main Street South Carolina likened it to a digital version of the Yellow Pages of South Carolina, specifically for mom-and-pop, locally-owned service, food, beverage, and retail small businesses.

“We wanted to launch something specifically for South Carolina, but not isolated to our main streets, we want it to be for the entire state. So, we want all 271 municipalities to feature here,” she said.

There are three levels of participation businesses can choose from to join the site. There is no fee for any business that simply wants to be listed in the directory. That can include a store profile and a link to the store’s website.

A second option is for businesses that want to sell gift cards for their stores. That can be useful for stores with multiple locations. The cost to participate in that plan is $360/year.

The third plan is the full store plan. It is for businesses that want to be able to sell their products online. It costs $600/year.

Consumers can set up an account with We Shop SC that will allow them to search through all available businesses and make their purchases online. However, organizers said they also want to use the platform to ultimately get customers into stores.

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