BBB tips for consumers purchasing from seasonal stores and websites
– Pop-up stores and websites offering Halloween costumes and decorations seem to come out of nowhere every fall. Before falling for a trick, rather than a treat, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises shoppers to research unfamiliar stores or websites with BBB before buying.
Every year, BBB receives hundreds of complaints from consumers shopping from costume stores, both online and in-person. Complaints from consumers shopping online range from undelivered orders to difficulties obtaining refunds for cancelled orders. Complaints regarding in-store purchases involved unclear return and exchange policies, damaged products and missing pieces.
In some cases, customers found stores closed when they returned to report a problem.
BBB offers these tips to help you avoid being haunted by an unwanted product this fall:
- Do your research. If you're interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, check the company’s BBB Business Review free at bbb.org, or through BBB’s online mobile app accessible on your smartphone at m.bbb.org.
- Beware of absent policies. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If companies can’t offer information on how they handle problems with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.
- Anticipate the charges. 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.
- Consider timing. Consumers purchasing Halloween costumes have just about a week to get their orders in. Consider the shipping times. 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.
- Purchase safely and securely. Only provide your credit card number online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix “https://” in the URL to be sure that the site you are using is secure.
- Ask about post-holiday policies. 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.