I doubt you need me to tell you that Black Friday is taking place at the end of this week.
The US tradition of major sales the day after Thanksgiving has been enthusiastically embraced by retailers here in recent years, so much so that it is now less a single day and more a catch-all name for sales and offers for much of November.
When it comes to special offers, particularly at a time when shoppers are under pressure to buy, it is vital to remember two key rules.
A bargain is only a bargain if you wanted or needed it anyway and if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
While there are good deals to be had, Aine Carroll of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission tells me they see a spike in problems each year around this time.
“Online shopping has many benefits, particularly around events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales,” Ms Carroll said.
“However, at this time of year, the commission sees a significant increase in contacts from consumers who are having issues with purchases they have made online.
“This indicates that consumers face challenges in this area.”
She wants customers to be aware that they have specific rights, particular when buying within the EU, which they may not be aware of when it comes to online shopping.
“When you buy online from an EU-based website, you have a cooling-off period of 14 days, starting from the date you receive your item, to cancel the order and get a refund,” Ms Carroll said.
If you buy something online that turns out to be faulty, you have the same rights as if you bought it in a shop.
You should contact the business by email immediately and ask for a refund or replacement.
If the item you bought online was faulty, or not what you ordered, you do not have to pay for the cost of returning it.
If you look for a refund, you are also entitled to any delivery costs you paid.
Remember you don’t have the same protections if you buy from a website outside the EU, check the business’s geographic address on the website.
If you are buying from a business based outside the EU, make sure you read and understand that site’s returns policy beforehand.
Big and established sellers from further afield will normally treat customers fairly but be extremely suspicious of newly set-up or unknown sites.
“Setting up a copycat website to sell fake goods only takes a few minutes and these sites come and go very quickly. This is why it is important to check for site reviews in advance of making a purchase,” said Ms Carroll.
If you are a bargain hunter who prefers to hit the shops, the first piece of advice is to get there early.
Shops will usually have a limited number of their biggest offers available so on Black Friday, the early bird has the best chance of getting the worm.
If you have your eye on a particular item, have your research done beforehand and know what it normally costs.
Use a price comparison websites like Pricespy to check what the current price is with other retailers before taking the plunge.
Ideally, don’t go out without a shopping list of items. You are far more likely to persuade yourself that what looks like a great deal will be a perfect gift for someone in the heat and excitement of a busy shop.
If you buy something in a store and simply change your mind, you are not automatically entitled to return it for a refund or exchange.
Some shops will give you a refund or exchange but this is shop policy and not consumer law.
Shops may change or shorten their change-of-mind returns policy if an item is on sale.
If you are overcome with an urge to splurge, take a five-minute break for a coffee or a stroll and mull over whether it really is 1, a bargain and 2, if its a gift, will the recipient really appreciate it.
A few minutes cooling off before committing to a major purchase could prevent buyer’s remorse down the line.
Black Friday deals are not limited to retailers — other businesses are also getting in on the act.
Cork’s Trigon Hotels, made up of The Metropole Hotel, Cork International Hotel, and
Cork Airport Hotel, are offering a week-long Black Friday booking.
From November 23 to 30, customers can book a stay for a reduced rate in any of the three hotels.
The Metropole Hotel offer is €109 bed & breakfast per room per night, the Cork Airport Hotel is €79 room only per room per night, and the Cork International Hotel is €99 bed & breakfast per room and they also add in tea/coffee and scones on arrival.
Although the booking has to be made before the end of November, the stay can be made
up until the end of February 2019, so ideal for anyone planning a post-Christmas trip to Cork.
If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org