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Better Business Bureau ®
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Metropolitan New York, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Region
A Shopper's Guide to New York City
New York is a shopper's paradise - whether you are looking for elegant or trendy items, they all can be found here. While the vast majority of New York stores are great places to shop, there are some “bad apples” out there. To make sure that you are happy with your purchases, we offer a few simple tips on how to be a savvy consumer.

Refund rights 

In New York State, there is no law requiring stores to refund or exchange merchandise. Because of this, you should ask about the store's refund policy before making a purchase. Stores which do not give cash refunds within 20 days of the purchase are required to display a sign stating their refund policy on the item itself or make the policy clearly visible to customers near each register or point of sale. However, you may be entitled to an exchange or a refund, regardless of store policy, if the item was damaged or defective, without being marked “as is”.

To avoid problems in obtaining your refund, make sure you have a receipt listing the total price of the item, the tax paid, the date the item was purchased and the correct address of the store.

Pay by Credit Card

For extra protection, use your credit card instead of a check or cash when making a purchase. If there is a problem with the merchandise, contact your credit card issuer immediately. You might be able to withhold payment, as long as you made an attempt to resolve the problem with the store involved.

Electronics stores

Last year, the Bureau received over 1,200 complaints from shoppers against electronics stores. Most of these complaints were from consumers who believed they were overcharged. To protect yourself, check the price and quality of comparable merchandise in various stores to be sure you are getting a bargain. Other complaints were regarding "bait & switch" advertising, an illegal tactic used to lure you into purchasing a more expensive item. When you ask about the sale item, known as the "bait", the merchant attempts to "switch" you to more expensive merchandise by criticizing the sale item or by telling you that it is unavailable.

Do not be fooled by the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) - these prices are often much higher than the amount consumers are actually willing to pay for the product. Merchants are not allowed to sell electronics for over the MSRP without notifying the consumer.

Think twice about doing business with salespeople who price an item at one figure and then drop it to another within a matter of minutes, without the offer being part of an advertised sale. In addition, do not be pressured into buying any item, even if the salesperson claims that the offer is only valid for one day or one hour.

Beware of boxes that look repackaged - they might contain used or defective merchandise. To make sure an item is new and not refurbished, open the package to inspect the goods before making the purchase. Items that have been refurbished may not have the original manufacturer's warranty.

Check the voltage requirements of the product if you will be using it outside of the U.S.

In general, it is best to compare the warranties offered by different manufacturers. Know whether you will be receiving a full warranty, providing comprehensive coverage, or a limited warranty, which may require you to pay for the labor costs involved in the repair of the product.

Many electronics stores offer extended warranties on the items they sell, with a commission going to the salesperson. If you live far away, find out if you will have to pay for the shipping costs involved in the repair of the product. In general, extended warranties should not exceed 15% of the price of the product. Consumers should be aware that fewer than 20% of those who purchase extended warranties ever use them. Be sure to read the details of an extended warranty before agreeing to purchase it.

All New York City stores that sell audio, video or photographic equipment must be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs. Contact the Department of Consumer Affairs to check if the store is licensed and if there have been complaints filed against the store. Consumers can also contact the Better Business Bureau to obtain a Reliability Rating on any electronics store.