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Better Business Bureau ®
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Southern Arizona
BBB Tips on Shopping Smart this Holiday Season
November 25, 2008

Tucson, AZ - The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona wants holiday shoppers to arm themselves with good information before they rush into purchasing decisions.

"This is the time of year when we’re all rushed, but don’t let that blur your shopping judgment," says Kim States, BBB spokesperson. "Shoppers need to think before they buy, particularly this year when budgets are tight and there are seemingly good deals on every corner."

BBB offers the following tips for shoppers:

· Budget. Plan your holiday expenditures. Along with your list of gifts, include holiday cards, stamps, entertaining, and clothing. As you make purchases, keep a running total to make sure you don’t spend more than you budgeted.

· Comparison shop. Don't rely on ads that claim to offer the lowest prices. BBBs across the country have secretly shopped many companies that make this claim and determined they do not always have the lowest prices. It is almost impossible for a company to have the lowest price on every item, every day. Comparison shopping is an important key to finding the best value. Apply this rule to going-out-of-business sales too.

· Restocking fees. Many consumers are looking for big ticket items for holiday gifts - especially due to the digital television transition in February. After doing some serious comparison pricing, ask the store if they charge a restocking fee if the product is returned. Many stores find it necessary to charge these fees to cover the loss of revenue if they can no longer sell the item as new. BBB receives hundreds of complaints regarding restocking fees every year.

· Return policies and refunds. Ask for the store's return policy before you buy. Companies are not required to give you your money back, but they need to post their return policy prominently. Keep your receipts in one place so you don't lose them. Many companies are tightening their return policies and will likely require you to produce a receipt for a return. When making a purchase, ask for a gift receipt and tape it on the inside of the gift box to make returns easier for family and friends.

· Gift cards. If you purchase a gift card this holiday season, check for an expiration date and ask if there’s a dormancy fee. With many stores closing, you need to make sure the company has not filed for bankruptcy and is in good financial health before buying a gift card. If you receive a gift card, you should redeem it promptly.

· Beware of fees. Many gift givers are foregoing gift cards this year in favor of bank cards. But consumers need to ask up front what fees are associated with the card they are purchasing. Is there a monthly service fee? Is there a fee to load the card? Is there a penalty fee if the card isn’t used? What happens if the card is lost? Read the fine print and ask questions. “All too often the large print giveth and the fine print taketh away,” States says. “Read the terms and conditions.”

· Getting the real deal. Do you know if a sale is really a sale? Many times companies boast "70 percent off," but 70 percent off what? If a company is advertising a going-out-of-business sale, don't assume they are offering the best price in town. Again, comparison shop.

· Black Friday ads. Refer to “Black Friday” ads, coupons and inserts to help you plan your shopping day in terms of where you will shop and for what items. Be aware of limited quantities; just because the store advertises an item doesn’t mean they have an abundance in stock.

· Check out the company. If you are shopping a company for the first time, be it online or in the mall, take a minute to contact the BBB at 520-888-5353 or, to see how the company handles customer complaints that it may have received.

About the BBB System

BBB is a nonprofit funded by trustworthy businesses. Today, 126 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities.