As a society, we tend to overlook a lot of things that are not right in front of our faces. The same is especially true when we go holiday shopping. All we want to know is that we are getting the best value for our buck and we typically rely on the retailers selling the stuff to be honest with us. While we likely know there is some wool being pulled over our shopping eyes, some consumer just do not realize how much they are being taken for a ride.

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Here is what you should be thinking about next time you enter your favorite store:

1. Refund Policy

You may be absolutely intent on making a purchase but if you knew how hard it is going to be to return that DVD player, you might have reconsidered. Retailers are looking for ways to keep the profits in the black. If you purchase an item that doesn’t fit or you had second thoughts about, taking it back to the store for a refund is becoming a bigger hassle and more expensive than ever.

Some retailers are now charging 10-20% of the price for restocking fees. That means for a $100 DVD player you have to pay $10-$20 for a store employee to put it back on the shelf. Plus, you must abide by more stringent rules for returning an item if you want your money back. You have to make the return within a certain time period and perfect condition. Even when you meet the criteria, some retailers will only offer an even exchange or a store credit rather than refund your money.

2. Gift Card Fees

Desperate holiday shoppers will often resort to a quick gift card as a last resort for gift-giving. Find the perfect gift for loved ones and friends is often not an easy task so a gift card can seem ideal. However, that gift you are giving may not be as worth it as you think.

As more stores are trying to buckle down and make the most profits in light of the tough economy, gift cards are getting more expensive. You’ll still pay face value for the card but with new and increased fees for simply having a card, your gift recipient may not be getting what you paid for. Cards that go unused for a certain period of time can incur an inactivity fee or can even expire altogether. Check the fine print on cards you are not familiar with and be sure to ask questions if you have concerns.

3. Lower Quality Products

High-end manufacturers are finding it harder to sell and see a profit in high-end stores so they are taking their wares to discount stores where sales are on the rise. Shoppers may think they are getting a bargain at outlets and discount retailers but they need to take a closer look at what they are getting.

The brand name may stay the same but the quality is oftentimes lower. Manufacturing hacks are being used to cut down on the expense of production but the retail prices often stay high. Many people forget to look beyond the label while shopping but a good eye can make sure you are getting what you paid for.

4. Store Credit Cards

After spending some significant time in a store looking for just the right item, the cashiers have one last trick up their sleeve. Before checking out the merchandise you’ve been toting around, the checkout person will ask you if you plan to use your store card. If you admit to not having one, prepare to deflect the sales pitch coming next.

Retailers are pushing for consumer to apply for a store card by offering an immediate discount. After a long day of shopping, that extra 15% off can sound like a good idea. However, card terms for store cards often come with high interest rates and low credit limits. Not only are you not getting a deal in reality, you are subjecting yourself to credit woes if you fail to manage a card wisely. In some cases, consumers forget they even have an outstanding balance on a credit card they applied for on impulse which leads to financial problems down the line.

Photo by batintherain via Flickr