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Buyer beware is best advice to avoid being suckered in

Here are some holiday shopping traps to avoid, from Consumer Reports, with a few extra tips thrown in by me:

* Deep discount come-ons. "Door-buster" sales promise big savings on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season. Beware of items that retailers say are on sale or deeply discounted. They might actually be higher than the normal price at the retailer or other similar stores.

If you type in the item you're looking for in an online search engine, you will most likely find a number of comparison shopping websites (or check if your smart phone has similar applications) to see the range of prices at stores or online retailers.

* Gift card gotchas. New federal rules for gift cards limit issuers' ability to charge certain fees and impose expiration dates. Inactivity and service fees can be charged only if a card hasn't been used for at least one year. But issuers can still charge fees to buy cards, as they do for bank-issued cards, that have a credit card logo.

Gift cards are not protected if the issuers go bankrupt. So you are taking a chance if you're buying cards to specific retailers. If you buy gift cards, choose retailers you know the recipient will visit to use the card soon.

* Extended warranty pitches. Salespeople push service plans because retailers keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for them, but most are notoriously bad deals, according to Consumer Reports.

Some repairs are covered by the standard warranty that comes automatically with the product. Consumer Reports' data shows that products seldom break within the extended-warranty window of coverage and if they do, the repairs on average cost about the same as the warranty.

Check with your credit card company since many extend manufacturers' warranties on anything purchased with them. Not all credi card issuers participate in the extended warranty programs, so check with your issuer.

Consumer Reports also suggests that even if the warranty has expired, you should still check with the retailer or manufacturer, which might choose or be legally obligated to repair and make good on a product that prematurely fails or otherwise shows signs of a defect.

* Restocking fees. Many items, especially electronics and special orders, are subject to restocking fees that range from 10 percent to 25 percent if they are not returned in a factory-sealed box. Consumer Reports suggests not opening the box unless you're sure you want what is inside.

If a fee is charged, try to negotiate a partial refund, but never pay a fee if the item is defective.

Here are more tips from the Ohio Attorney General's Office:

* Read the fine print. Make sure you understand all the details before heading to a sale.

* Ask for a rain check. If an advertisement doesn't mention limited quantities, you have the right to buy the advertised goods for the sale price even if the store has run out. Rain checks must be honored within 60 days of being issued.

If the retailer can't fulfill the rain check within this time period, you have the choice to either purchase a similar or comparable in-stock item or agree to a specific time extension.

* When buying online, watch for free offers that will cost you. Some free trial offers are actually part of a billing practice known as a negative option. If you fail to cancel the offer within a specific (usually narrow) time frame, you might be billed automatically. Before providing your payment information, read the website's information very carefully.

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