Beware of “Spooky” Sales at Temporary Halloween Shops

Pumpkins and ghosts have started invading neighborhoods in Western Pennsylvania. The spooky decorations account for part of the $75.03 Americans will individually spend on average on Halloween items in 2013, according to the National Retail Federation.  Total spending on candy, costumes and decorations is expected to hit near $7 billion.

With Halloween season comes temporary costume stores and seasonal pop-up shops. While it is a treat to shop the variety of costumes and accessories at these specialty stores, not researching the company through BBB’s business reviews prior to making a purchase could come back to haunt consumers.  The Better Business Bureau of Western PA advises shoppers to check the company’s review before patronizing unfamiliar stores or websites.  You can do this on our website, or by calling 877-267-5222.

In 2012, of the consumer complaints filed against Halloween specialty shops in Western PA, none of the companies could be reached for a response because they were assumed to be out of business or they packed up and left town, cutting off lines of communication. With spending on adult costumes expected to reach the $1.2 billion mark in 2013 and with more than one-third of Americans expected to shop retail stores for costumes, it’s important to check out a company’s reputation and read the fine print on policies prior to checkout so you know what you’re options are if you decide to make a return.

BBB offers tips for shopping smart during Halloween, so consumers are not spooked by a bad purchase:

Check out the company – Many Halloween-themed stores take advantage of short-term leases, setting up shop in vacant space for just a few weeks.  Businesses will also change their name from year to year as a way of hiding a poor track record.  Always check out a company’s business review before making a purchase. If the company is not listed, ask employees how long the store will continue to operate and if they will accept returns after the holiday.  If they don’t, make sure the item is exactly what you want and understand you’ll be stuck with the purchase if something were to happen.

Inquire about policies –  Seasonal stores have the same responsibilities as those who serve shoppers year round; they must display their refund and return policies prominently. Read the fine print and be aware of the terms and conditions of your purchase.  Some stores may have time limits for returns and may not allow refunds on costumes. Others may only provide store credit for returns.

Keep documentation – Make your purchases by credit card.  If something goes wrong, you may be able to dispute the charges. Save your receipts! The refund and exchange policy should be listed there.  It is better to have policies in writing and the receipt is often needed to make a return.

Online shopping safety –  The National Retail Federation predicts more people will search for Halloween costume inspiration online, rather than in retail or costume stores in 2013.  When buying online, do it securely.  Check a site’s security settings.  The web address should begin with “https://.”  Only provide your credit card number online on a secure site.  Make sure to read the terms and conditions and know the return policy for costumes purchased on a website.

Check out your BBB’s website for more smart shopping tips.

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About Caitlin Driscoll

I have been the Public Relations Director of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA since November 2011.