Black Friday agita and holiday season self-help

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 NoSanta No Santa Symbol, St. Nicholas Defense Action Committees, Netherlands

Notice:  This time each year, the Editor of this weblog suffers from HAH! [Holiday Agita & Heartburn], as well as BHS [Bah Humbug Syndrome], due to the excessive commercialization of Christmas and related holidays. See f/k/aSt. Nicholas v. Santa Claus, Dec. 12, 2005.  Nonetheless, in the true spirit of the Season, he offers this self-help advice to those caught up — intentionally or not — in the Christmas shopping frenzy and other schmoliday customs.

In the normal course of the English Language, the term Black Friday would refer to a Friday infamous for financial market disaster (viz. Sept. 24, 1869) or for other forms of social calamity.  In the United States, as you surely know, it has also come to signify the Day After Thanksgiving.  It is deemed either the “official” or “unofficial” start of the Christmas-Holiday Shopping Season, and designated “Black” to refer to the day that retailers can (hopefully) stop recording losses in red ink in their account books, and can instead start to show profits in black ink. (see CBCNews/AP, “U.S. Shoppers Hit Stores on ‘Black Friday’,” Nov. 24, 2006)

Some shoppers are up early for Black Friday, or never go to bed, envigorated by the thrill of the chase for bargains. (e.g., AZCentral.com, “In Search of a Deal,” Nov. 25, 2006) Yet, Black Friday can also be a day filled with stress and confrontation (New York Times, “Attention Holiday Shoppers: We Have Fisticuffs in Aisle 2,” Nov. 25, 2006), and begin a season of true financial disaster for millions of American consumers. 

orig. JesusMoneyChangers 

shlep may not be able to keep you from busting your budget, or mistaking massive gift-giving for the manifestation of love and affection, but we hope to help you avoid getting scammed or suffering other shopping and holiday pitfalls, and to help you find solutions or legal remedies, if you’re victimized by the dishonest or unscrupulous.  As the wise self-helper knows: the best way to “solve” a legal problem is to prevent it in the first place; and, prevention often means knowing your rights and/or acting with common sense.  The follow links and resources should assist you in those goals (if only by keeping you and your credit card occupied instead of shopping).

NoloLogo 1) As usual, Nolo.com offers useful advice. Shoppers, shopowners, and drivers might want to read:

  • What Are Your Legal Rights as a Shopper? This podcast episode “features consumer information for shoppers including material about cash refunds, implied and express warranties, reversing credit card charges, cancelling consumer contracts and dealing with mail order delays.” It is excerpted from “Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law: Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions.” (Aug. 25, 2006, 15 min.)
  • Nolo’s Purchasing Goods Resource Center has numerous articles, including Is It Legal for Gift Certificates to Expire? [note: only a few states offer protection, with California having the most comprehensive laws], and State Consumer Protection Offices, which explains the services offered by such agencies and links to local offices.
  • What Can You Do About Retail Theft? This podcast episode is “excerpted from the Nolo audio program, “The Bookseller’s Little Legal Companion”.  Although the episode is targeted at bookstore owners, the rules regarding employee theft, shoplifting, armed robbery and counterfeit currency apply for the owner of any retail establishment.  (May 7, 2006; approx. 15 min., transcript available from the NoloPodcastBlog) 
  • In this season of frequent “social drinking,” you might want to consult the Nolo podcast Do You Have to Consent to Roadside Sobriety Tests?, which “discusses DUIs – the laws and procedures that are triggered when someone is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” It is an interview with Aaron Bortel, a San Francisco attorney and expert on DUI law about how DUI laws are enforced, issues of consent as to chemical testing and the DUI case involving actor Mel Gibson. (Aug. 6, 2006, approx. 11 min.) You can read a transcript of this podcast at the NoloPodcastBlog.  [It should go without saying that shlep in no way condones drinking and driving!]

shoppingCart  2) The Federal Trade Commission always has lots of good advice for consumers, so we suggest browsing around that site.  It offers Holiday Online Shopping Tips, as does the Better Business Bureau, with its “Shopping Online for the Holidays: Twelve Tips To Protect Yourself From Cyber Grinches, Scams and Schemes.”

3) ConsumerAction.gov has information on a wide array of consumer issues, including Shopping from Home.  If you find yourself aggrieved, there is a Sample Complaint Letter, as well as a list of State, County and City Consumer Protection Offices.

JetTakeOffN  4) Travel: If you’re going to be flying this Holiday Season, you should read over the Permitted and Prohibited Items for airlines flights, from the Transportation Security Administration.  For more general information on traveler rights, plus travel tips, you might try the Preventive Legal Care for the Traveler® website of California lawyer Alexander Anolik. [We like Anolik’s motto and believe it should be generalized: in all aspects of our life and of the law, we can “minimize our legal entanglements” through “active awareness and advocacy” of our rights.]

5) It’s unanimous: Service Contracts and Extended Warranties are almost never a good idea.  Don’t just take our word for it.  In addition to advice from ConsumerAction.gov, you should read the persuasive article in the November 2006 edition of Consumer Reports.  CR notes:

This holiday season, shoppers are expected to spend a whopping $1.6 billion on extended warranties for laptops, flat-screen TVs, other electronics, and appliances.And almost all of it will be money down the drain.

As summarized by Consumer World®: Consumer Reports has come out more strongly than ever suggesting that you are wasting money paying for an extended warranty on products. They say the only exceptions are large screen rear-screen projection TVs and Apple computers, but see their chart of products with the highest repair frequency after three years. Remember also, most (but not all) platinum and gold credit cards double the manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional year for free. Check with your bank before shopping.

MrConsumerBlog  6) Consumer World: We strongly recommend the website Consumer World for anyone who wants to be a smart consumer.  It is “a public service, non-commercial guide with over 2000 of the most useful consumer resources.”  This is a most valuable place to go for news, opinion, advice and warnings, links to myriad resouces (including a very good Legal Resources page), and many ways to find bargains, obtain discounts, and compare prices.  Those who like to receive their information in a weblog format, you can go to Consumer World‘s affiliate, MrConsumer Blog, which “updates Consumer World daily with the latest consumer news, commentary and bargains.”

The above links and resources won’t assure you a Happy Holiday Season, but they can surely help you avoid some headaches and shopper’s remorse.  

update (Nov. 28, 2006): In an editorial titled “Holiday Defenses Breached,” the New York Times complained today that, with CompUSA launching an event at 9 PM on Thanksgiving Day itself, holiday shopping frenzy has even gone beyond Black Friday midnight-madness sales.   “Looking back on the holiday weekend past, we’re still haunted by those television reports from the malls of America. The images of hordes of shoppers re-enacting the Vandal sack of Rome were bad enough. Much worse was the realization that the start of the Christmas shopping season has crashed through the invisible barrier of Thanksgiving Day.”  The editorial worries that “Soon it could all end in a hostile bid to merge Christmas and back-to-school sales.”

p.s.  If you consume large amounts of information from law-related weblogs (or have planned to do so as soon as the task gets easier), shlep suggests that you check out Justicia’s BlawgSearch.  The all-seeing Robert Ambrogi noted at his LawSites weblog, when BlawgSearch was launched on Nov. 15th, that the site already indexed over 600 lawyer weblogs and plans to add many more. [Indeed, it added shlep on Thanksgiving Day, for which we are most thankful.]  Ambrogi explains that the site “includes a directory of blawgs arranged by categories and locations, as well as a directory of other blawg directories. The site’s front page lists the most popular blawgs, highlights recent blawg posts and highlights a ‘featured blawger.’ Clouds display tags and search terms.”

3 Comments

  1. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » more on avoiding gifting headaches

    December 11, 2006 @ 2:23 pm

    1

    […]  Back on Black Friday, shlep offered holiday-season shopping information to help our readers avoid shopping grief.   We hope you survived the post-Thanksgiving holiday frenzy, with sanity and finances intact, and will be able to get your Holiday Shopping completed before the last-minute rush.   Here are a couple more ideas for keeping the holiday spirit alive despite the rigmarole that accompanies this season. […]

  2. alexander anolik

    April 26, 2007 @ 10:35 am

    2

    thank you for bringing us schlep,I will be checking you useful info since there may be a life beyond travellaw. You referance to my travellaw.com site can hep your readers with lost luggage, change of flight problems and many of their travel related issues.. again, thank for you site.

  3. Mike

    May 13, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

    3

    Nice post I am definitely looking forward to reading your newer ones.

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