With Halloween rivaling Christmas in seasonal sales, more retailers are offering seasonal products and costumes to consumers, including pop-up stores and websites. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises shoppers to check unfamiliar stores or websites out with BBB before buying.
BBB receives dozens of complaints about costume stores and websites every year. Complaints range from deliveries that were late or never arrived to poor quality and difficulty obtaining refunds. Party stores also generate complaints.
Complaints about temporary stores have ranged from a nonworking mechanical spider to a poorly operating fog machine to a Wonder Woman costume that ripped as it was being put on by a child. In several cases, store employees told customers they could not return items because they had been used, were broken during the unpacking process, or they were returned after a posted store deadline.
Some customers found stores closed when they returned to report a problem.
“Getting a great deal on a costume may seem smart, but it pays to check into a website or store’s reputation before you place an order,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Consider shipping schedules if you need an item by a specific date. If you’re buying from a temporary store, ask about return policies before making a purchase.”
BBB has issued warnings in the past about specific websites that sell human and animal costumes. BBB offers these tips to help you avoid being haunted 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 at www.bbb.org.
- Customer satisfaction policy. Determine the company’s refund and return 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 and obtain a tracking number for the shipment. 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 to be sure that the site you are using is secure.
- Ask how long a store will operate. 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.
Before you do business with a charity or company, check its BBB Business Review or BBB Charity Review at www.bbb.org or by calling (314) 645-3300.