Halloween is the second largest shopping holiday of the year, which means unscrupulous businesses have plenty of opportunity to cash in. In the rush to purchase a costume or decorate the house, consumers can miss red flags. This Halloween, watch out for pop-up store confusion, online shopping scams, haunted events and other seasonal hazards.
Halloween is getting very popular with grown-ups, and there are numerous haunted theme events you can attend with your friends. Be cautious of events that advertise only online or in social media or that don’t provide information on how to contact the event organizers. When in doubt, contact the venue and see if they have a paid booking for the date and time listed, or if they have heard of the organizer. One company that came to BBB’s attention has a stated “No Refund” policy… which applies even when they are the ones to cancel the event! Talk about scarey.
Each fall, pop-up Halloween stores appear in empty storefronts across the United States. These shops can be a great way to purchase costumes, decorations and other themed merchandise. But the temporary nature of these shops can leave consumers in the lurch.
Here are some tips for shopping at a Halloween store.
▪ Know the return policy. Ask whether the store will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over.
▪ Use a credit card. Save your receipts and use a credit card. If there’s a problem with your purchase, your credit card company will help handle the dispute.
▪ Check for contact information. Make sure the store has a website with contact information in case you need to reach it later.
▪ Check the shop’s BBB business review. Search for the store on http://www.BBB.org to see past complaints and ratings information.
A popular alternative to pop-up shops is shopping online for any occasion:
▪ Make sure the website is secure. Before entering your credit card information look for URLs that start with “https ://”.
▪ Read the fine print: Make sure you understand the return policy and shipping times.
▪ Know the advertiser: Ensure the shop has working contact information, so you can follow up in case of problems.
▪ Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges you didn’t approve. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.
▪ Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving the Fall Line Corridor including 83 counties in portions of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The column is provided by the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a company or charity should be referred to the BBB at 1-800-763-4222, www.bbb.org or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.