Black Friday shopping tips from Consumer Reports

YONKERS, N.Y. (WHTM) – The mad dash for bargains begins this week.

It’s the official start of the holiday shopping season, so ABC 27 went to the experts at Consumer Reports for advice to help you survive the holiday crush.

The first tip is to get started as soon as possible. By now, you should already have some gift ideas.

The next tip: don’t buy into the Black Friday hype.

“Those deals are available almost all the time,” Tod Marks said.

Marks is a smart shopping guru for Consumer Reports. He says the magic of Black Friday has lost it’s luster and sales are expected to be down again this year.

“Black Friday has truly diminished in its appeal and its magnetism for a lot of shoppers in terms of getting the drop dead killer deal,” he said. “For a number of years we’ve seen it decline, at last 3 years, probably longer.”

Other than a few deep discount door busters, Marks says most Black Friday bargains are available well beyond Black Friday.

“You don’t have to have sweaty palms and worry that the deal you’re passing up on Black Friday is going to go away,” he said.

Marks says Black Friday has taken a backseat to Cyber Monday, where you can find great deals online. But beware: that bargain is only a bargain if it comes with free shipping.

“I don’t even give the time of day to a merchant this time of year who’s not willing to horse trade for my business by giving me free shipping,” he said.

Gift cards are easy and convenient as long as they’re used. More than $40 billion in unused gift cards are collecting dust.

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute. Procrastination will cost you in two ways: no more deals and no selection.

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