Alex’s blog: Black Friday, Christmas and how retailers can show goodwill

3 min read
November 23, 2020

Black Friday – we’ve all been hearing about it for what seems like weeks now. It’s hardly surprising – most of us are feeling the effects of a second lockdown perhaps more than the first time around and with many of us turning to our computers to shop, we may all be after a way to treat ourselves.

However, Black Friday has been a ‘thing’ in the UK for a few years now – and it’s clear that consumers have noticed. We all need to heed the warnings about the usual issues about buying for the sake of it, watching out for scams and being told something is a bargain when it might not be. But Resolver can show through our data that a number of users have their Black Friday shopping mapped out in advance in a bid to be that savvy shopper. And yet, the complaints they’re feeding through to us show that things can still go wrong.

That’s why this week I’m asking retailers to extend their returns policies for items purchased as part of Black Friday. 

How shoppers plan for Black Friday

We’ve reported this week that more than 6,000 complaints since 2017 are explicitly about retail purchases made as part of a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal. Compared to the big numbers we’ve been posting throughout the year about online shopping and package deliveries for example, that may not seem like an avalanche. But it’s 6,000 complaints – and a lot of them were much later than we might think.

During the first four months of this year we saw more than 1,000 complaints about items bought over the Black Friday sale period – up to five months after the ‘event’ itself in 2019. Going back two years more saw a similar trend, so it’s led me to ask why – and how can retailers help?

A number of people told us that they were buying Christmas presents in the Black Friday sales – only to discover that on Christmas day that present was either faulty or not what they thought it would be. Equally, consumers were using the ‘event’ of Black Friday to buy those items they knew they might need in the long-term, such as for a house move.

Retailers should extend their returns policies

What this means however is that as a consumer, you’re perhaps not opening up that package when it arrives (assuming it does – there were plenty of Black Friday delivery issues too, according to our complaints). When you do so a month – or more – later, if it’s not up to scratch or what you expected, are you stuck with it?

In short, no. You do have rights, and Resolver can help you cut through the jargon as to what they are explicitly, as we’ve long said that some retailers clearly don’t understand what they need to do under the law to protect consumers. 

But we can show that Black Friday is a long-standing means for consumers to plan to save money. Given how they’re shopping – and not always for themselves, they’re placing a lot of faith in those they buy from to get it right.

It seems only logical to me then that retailers should understand that – and act above and beyond. That’s why I’m calling for retailers to extend returns policies for goods bought as part of a Black Friday sale. 

It’s clear that shoppers are not just searching idly for a cut-price impulse buy, and in fact they are looking to get what they think is a good deal on the purchases that are important to them. This year, what we can also bank on is that if Christmas presents are being bought, the delivery address will likely be the recipient in preparation for potentially not being able to hand the gift over face-to-face. 

Many retailers already offer extended returns for Christmas gifts – and Black Friday has become a shopping calendar stalwart in the UK over the past few years. So why can’t returns policies be extended to cover just a couple of weeks at a time where consumers are waiting – in fact encouraged to shop to take advantage of lower prices? 

At no point have gestures of goodwill to consumers been more important than this year. In the face of many businesses not playing fair to their customers over the past few months, when those customers have been patient and in the main, reasonable, an extended returns policy seems to me like a no-brainer example of how retailers can acknowledge not only that they understand how and why their customers shop, but that they want to keep that trust and longer-term loyalty.

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