It looks like everyone is getting into the Black Friday act. We got word that ING DIRECT, the lending folks, are offering a Black Friday special on mortgage closing costs. Click here for the details -- but not until Friday.
Black Friday is expected to attract up to 134 million shoppers this year, the National Retail Federation reports. Their survey -- just out today -- says 57 million people say they will definitely hit the stores, while another 77 million are waiting to see what retailers plan to offer.
"With retailers fully aware that shoppers are looking for incredible deals, Americans can expect huge sales on popular items like toys, electronics and apparel," says Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO.
In any case, the true-believers -- one in ten shoppers -- say they will get to the store between midnight and 3 a.m.
But 27% will shop online.
USA TODAY's Drive-on reports that many Suzuki dealers will open showrooms at 8 30 a.m. to try to catch some of the Friday Fever.
Savings.com is a year-round website for savings. But this year, they've got a special spot for Black Friday sales, chock full of coupons. Click here.
Hewlett-Packard is offering half-prize deals on some HP Photosmart printers. Click here.
Now, here's some big news: Well, sort of. Apple will have a Black Friday sale. They will even confirm it if you click here. What they won't confirm is what they will be selling and for how much. They do mention there will be some iPod, iPhone and Mac deals -- and free shipping.
Mac World notes that in past years, sale prices have been available both online and at Apple retail locations. "But don't get your hopes too high," Mac World cautions. "Those past discounts have been relatively moderate, between 5%-7% off."
And, for what it's worth, BoyGenius Report.com offers what it says is a leaked "image" from a "pretty credible connect of ours" showing the alleged Apple Black Friday sales brochure. We're not going to reprint the purported offers, since it all sounds a bit shaky, but if you want to take a peek, click here.
A splash of reality from The Wall Street Journal: "Retailers are trumpeting great deals on televisions heading into Black Friday, but the steepest discounts this year are limited to a few sets as promotional activity is less frantic than a year ago." Click here for more.
On the other hand: The New York Times examines an all-out price war between Amazon and Wal-Mart -- and the implications for the future as the slugfest spreads through product areas like books, movies, toys and electronics. Click here. And USA TODAY reporters on stock watchers keeping a close eye on sales. Click here.
Now, back to the deals ...
Toys R Us is offering deals throughout the holiday on its web site, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. On Thursday and Friday, the company will discount Hooked on Phonics learning systems 75%, cut prices on board games and puzzles by 60% and discount Barbie items 50%.
Target will offer daily online deals between the two weeks from Nov. 29 to Dec. 12, offering up to 50% off regular prices for housewares, electronics, toys and other categories for one day only.
Amazon.com is offering deals through Nov. 30. Some available on Black Friday include a LG 37-inch LCD TV for $649, down from $1399, and an exclusive Tonner 17-inch Twilight Edward Cullen Doll for $89.99, down from $139.99.
OK, let's face it: A whole lot of those items you buy are going right back where they came from. The December issue of Shopsmart, from the publishers of Consumer Reports, has already reviewed the return policies of 88 popular online retailers, and here is some of what it found:
15 Best Return Policies
Bed Bath & Beyond; Bloomingdale's; Costco; Ikea; Kmart; Kohl's; L.L.Bean; Lands' End; Lowe's; Nike; Nordstrom; Piperlime.com; Sam's Club; Shoebuy.com; Zappos.com
13 Not-So-Hot Return Policies
Amazon.com has strict limitations on what can be returned (no computers after 30 days, for example) and a 15% restocking fees for computers and fine jewelry.
BJ's has a great in-store returns policy, but the website is full of gotchas. And another catch: "bjs.com reserves the right at any time after receipt of your order, without prior notice to you, to supply less than the quantity you ordered of any item."
Bidz.com only gives you 15 days to return and there's a 15% restocking fee.
Boscov's has lots of restrictions, especially on big items like mattresses. Plus there are restocking fees on some items.
Buy.com gives you 30 days from the date your product left the warehouse to ship it back, regardless of when you actually received the item.
Dillard's requires a receipt or proof-of-purchase label and packaging on returns.
Fingerhut.com makes it a huge pain to send something back after 30 days.
Finishline does not accept returns after 45 days, even if your shoes have a manufacturer's defect.
Home Depot does not accept returns on some items and no online items can be returned in-store.
Macy's has lots of limitations on items from furniture to jewelry. For example, any rings besides women's size 7 and men's size 10.5 are considered custom and no custom sizes may be returned.
Office Depot gives you only 14 days for electronics and furniture.
Overstock.com has lots of restrictions. For example, you can't return TVs over a certain size.
Smartbargains.com is really strict on the condition of the item to be returned. The package must be unmarked and not defaced to qualify for a full refund.
(Posted by Doug Stanglin)