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5 Ways Companies Are Already Ruining the Holidays

Why do we have to start thinking about Christmas in freaking October?

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The bottom line is that layaway policies are designed to sell more stuff, and shoppers should always be wary of stores trying to make more money off of them. But hey, if you’re a savvy shopper and figure out how to use the system to your advantage, by all means do. Just read the fine print.

3. Black Friday gets out of control, and it’s not even a good deal.

There are two types of people in this world: 1) those who find it enjoyable to get up at 5am (or earlier) on a non-work day to go to K-Mart with thousands of other people and 2) reasonable human beings. Joking aside, the day after Thanksgiving is a high holy day for retailers and many shoppers, even as other sale days like Cyber Monday attract more and more consumers. For several years now it’s been the busiest shopping day of the year, and the day when stores often start being “in the black” (turning a profit).

Stores tout Black Friday deals, including “door busters” that require shoppers to line up well before dawn, for weeks before the big event. But is Black Friday really worth it for shoppers? In many cases, no. “Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black. It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products,” University of Washington computer science professor Oren Etzioni told the New York Times last November. Etzioni, who studies artificial intelligence and helped develop the Farecast airline price predictor, used his expertise to study holiday season bargains and found that many items are cheaper in the weeks after Black Friday and at other times during the year. So Black Friday is good deal for stores, but not the best deal for shoppers.

This is especially true when you consider the rise in violence and mayhem that we’ve seen on Black Friday in recent years. Last year alone, two people were shot, fifteen others pepper sprayed, and one man collapsed and died in different stores around the country.

This year maybe try celebrating Buy Nothing Day instead.

4. Your mom might get scammed on Cyber Monday. (OK, and you might too.)

Nothing says “holiday spirit” like “the 12 Scams of Christmas”! That’s a real, sadly necessary thing distributed by McAfee to keep your mom (and you) safe from the scammers who try to take advantage of the uptick in online shopping during the holiday season. The most common scams include mobile malware, bogus Facebook contests, phishing schemes, and even downloadable holiday screensavers:

Bringing holiday cheer to your home or work PC sounds like a fun idea to get into the holiday spirit, but be careful. A recent search for a Santa screensaver that promises to let you “fly with Santa in 3D” is malicious. Holiday-themed ringtones and e-cards have been known to be malicious too.

Seriously?!

This problem is likely to get worse this year, as online shopping is expected to increase by 12 percent this year, compared to 2011. More online shoppers, more scams to take advantage of them.

5. You can’t even trust the charities.

The Salvation Army’s ubiquitous red kettles make a lot of people feel better about shopping at big box stores around the holidays. Spend some money at Walmart, give a few bucks to charity -- it all works out, right?

Unfortunately, for all the good the Salvation Army might do, the group undermines that with its discriminatory anti-gay policies. Gay rights activists have long targeted the charity for denying services to LGBTQ citizens under the justification that homosexuality is a sin. Earlier this year the group got into especially hot water when one of its spokespeople said on an Australian radio show that he agrees gay people deserve to die.