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Black Friday in Switzerland: How to avoid shopping traps

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 23 Nov, 2022 Updated Wed 23 Nov 2022 12:02 CEST
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Black Friday offers many bargains but also scams. Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

You are likely seeing plenty of ads in your part of Switzerland for “terrific” deals on Black Friday. But before you part with your money, be aware of the pitfalls that await you in the store and, even more so, online.

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You probably can't walk a few metres in whatever town you live in without spotting advertisements for Black Friday discounts.  

Why Black Friday is a thing in Switzerland in the first place is somewhat of a mystery, as this “holiday” originated in the United States, and is “celebrated” right after Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November.

Tradition has it (as anyone who has ever lived in the US knows) that right after a turkey dinner and football game on TV, people head to the stores, where chaos, mayhem, and sometimes even serious bodily injuries await them as they hunt for bargains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwvAyD1wRsc

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Thankfully, in Switzerland stampedes and tramplings such as those in the video have not been reported to date, though inattentive shoppers could fall victim to other traps, such as scams and fake deals.

In fact, Swiss consumer organisations are advising shoppers to be on alert for scammers offering fake “bargains,” especially online.

“If an offer seems too good or too cheap to be true, it is better to trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t,” according to a Swiss “Stop Piracy” group, which combats online fraud.

How can you avoid being duped on Black Friday?

Other than common-sense advice, such as comparing prices at different retailers before buying, avoiding compulsive shopping sprees, and not purchasing anything you can’t afford, the main thing is to be mindful of potential rip-offs.

Buying from reliable Swiss retail chains like Coop, Migros, Manor, Globus, InterDiscount and MediaMarkt, or local shops in your town that have been in business for a long time, is safe.

However, be on alert for fake online stores that spring up on the internet on Black Friday only to disappear soon after.

“Being wary of fraudulent merchants is particularly important on Black Friday, as the huge array of almost unrealistic deals offers the perfect camouflage," according to Swiss consumer website, Moneyland.

It adds that "unassuming consumers who stumble across these deals on social media and elsewhere and try to make purchases may have their credit card information stolen or worse yet, their card may be charged but the purchased goods are never delivered.”

While these scams circulate online year-round, "they are much easier to miss during the low-price hype of Black Friday".

So a good tip to remember is this: stay away from obscure or suspicious-looking online stores, offering spectacular deals.

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How can you distinguish a fake retailer from a legitimate one?

A fake shop may have a strange looking URL (web address), though if you are not a techie you may not be able to notice it.

There are, however, other signs as well.

For instance, rock-bottom prices on brand names or products that are usually pricey elsewhere, should sound an alarm in your head. If these products actually exist, they are probably fakes; more likely, the “shop” is a front for scammers who just want your money.

You should also be suspicious if a retailer doesn’t have its full address and offline contact information on the website. If it does list a phone number, call and talk to a live person — if anyone answers at all.

Another definite alert is the returns policy. All legitimate stores, at least the ones in Switzerland, have a clearly stated returns policy on their websites.

READ MORE: Reader question: Under what conditions can I return a purchase to a store in Switzerland?

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Will buying abroad save you money?

As Black Friday is now a global phenomenon, you may think that foreign websites offer more money-saving opportunities than Swiss ones.

Is it actually true?

Yes, some products may be cheaper abroad, but if you add customs duties and price of shipping, you may not be saving all that much money  — if any — after all.

This article provides more information about shopping on foreign sites:

Reader question: Can I save money in Switzerland by buying products on foreign websites?

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/11/23 12:02

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