Temporary costume stores and Halloween boutiques have become as much a sign of fall as the autumn leaves changing colors. Some consumers prefer shopping in brick and mortar establishments, while others opt for the convenience of costume shopping from home, online. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises shoppers to check out a business with the BBB before patronizing unfamiliar stores or websites.
“A costume may look cute and the price may seem right, but it pays to check into a businesses or website’s reputation and consider return policies and shipping schedules before placing an order online,” said Michele Mason, BBB president and CEO. “If you're buying from a temporary store, ask about refund and exchange policies before making a purchase.”
Your BBB offers these tips to help you avoid being haunted by your decisions 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.
- Refund or exchange policy. Determine the company's refund and exchange 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. The letter S designates that the site you are using is secure.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Every year, thousands of people purchase items online and never receive them. Even though federal regulation generally requires an item to be delivered within 30 days, using a debit card will make a refund more difficult to get. A credit card will allow you to dispute the charge and may give you a better chance of getting your money back.
- Ask how long a store will operate. If you’re buying from a seasonal store, ask them if they will be open after the holiday and whether or not they will accept returns when the season is over. If not, take time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.