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.

Know the Refund Policy

New York State law does not generally require any retail merchant to have a specific refund, credit or exchange policy, but all merchants are required to post their return policies.  Make sure you are aware of a store’s refund policy before making a purchase.

To avoid problems if you need to obtain a refund, make sure you get 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. 

For more information on refund policies, see Your Refund Rights with Retailers.

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 and the store will not refund you, contact your credit card issuer immediately. You might be able to dispute payment, as long as you have made an attempt to resolve the problem with the store involved. 

Electronics stores

In 2014, Metro NY BBB received over 2,200 complaints from shoppers against electronics stores. Complaints involved issues related to billing, non-delivery of ordered items, defective or damaged merchandise, incorrect or incomplete orders, and selling practices. 

To protect yourself from being overcharged, check the price and quality of comparable merchandise in various stores to be sure you are getting a bargain. Some 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 (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, if possible, 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.

Some 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 few of those who purchase extended warranties ever use them.  Consumer experts present varying points of view about the value of extended warranties.  Consider the nature of the item purchased, its importance to you and the likelihood that a warranty may be needed.  Be sure to read the details of an extended warranty before agreeing to purchase it.

All New York City stores that sell audio, video, computer 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. Visit www.nyc.gov/consumers, call 311, or write to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, 42 Broadway, New York, NY 10004.

Consumers can also contact Metro NY BBB to obtain a BBB Business Review, with a 3-year complaint history, and a directory of Accredited Businesses.  Call (212) 533-6200 or visit newyork.bbb.org.

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