Temporary costume stores and other Halloween boutiques are as much a sign of fall as autumn leaves. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises shoppers to check the businesses out with the BBB before patronizing unfamiliar stores or websites.
Nationwide, the BBB received 357 complaints about costume stores and websites in the last year. The complaints included deliveries that were late or never arrived, poor quality and difficulty obtaining refunds. Some customers found the stores closed when they returned to report a problem.
“A costume may look cute, and the price may seem right, but it pays to check into a site’s reputation before you place an order online,” said Marjorie Stephens, Director of Marketplace Services. "Consider shipping schedules if you need an item by a specific date. If you’re buying from a temporary store, ask about return policies before making a purchase.”
The BBB offers these five tips to help you avoid being haunted after Halloween is over:
- Location. If you're interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
- Customer satisfaction policy. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If online companies can’t offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.
- Leave nothing to chance. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of everything involved before placing an order. Be clear on the price and any shipping and handling charges. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. Find out how long it will be before you receive your order. Federal law requires that goods and services be delivered within 30 days, unless a different delivery period is specifically stated by the merchant.
- Guard your personal information. Only provide your credit card number online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix “https://” in the URL box listing the website’s address to be sure that the site you are using is secure.
- Ask how long a store will operate. If you’re buying from a seasonal store, ask whether it will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.