Tips for Consumers: Holiday Shopping Tips

Tips for Consumers
Holiday Shopping Tips

Every year, during the holiday season, I write about many calls the BBB gets from consumers in the Hagerstown area. They ask us to help them with their buying disputes. Here are some typical seasonal complaints:
"This company's ad said their sale prices were 80% off, but now I've found the same merchandise elsewhere at a lower price." Big savings claims may indicate bargains, but you must still shop around. Often the giant "discount" is actually off an inflated "list price" which means nothing. Also, don't bee fooled by ads that claim, "We have the lowest prices in town!" No seller can possibly know every other store's price. Do they offer a price guarantee? How easy is it to use?
"I ordered from a mail order company but now they have gone out of business (or lost my order!)" When buying by mail or over the Internet, order as early as possible and keep detailed records in case your order is lost. Always pay by credit card if possible.
"I bought a gift from a TV home shopping service, but they won't let me return it." When buying, be sure to tell them the gift is for Christmas so their return policies will begin December 25. You may also have to pay shipping charges to return items.
"The company ran the ad, but when I went to their store they were sold out!" No store can know the response each ad will have, and they can't control slow shipments or weather delays. Shop early. Ask for a rain check or ask if they can give you the same savings on a similar item. Many retailers will do this.
"I want my money back!" Stores set their own policies on refunds, exchanges and layaways. Know in advance the store's policy on returns. While many will give you a refund or exchange your merchandise, they have the right to insist that goods be returned in salable condition with all packaging materials intact. Most also insist that you have proof of purchase, so save those receipts! And some businesses have posted signs that say," All says are final." This is legal. Ask about the return policy before you buy.
"I couldn't find any sales clerks and the checkout line was too long!" Talk to the store manager. In any case, please be courteous to the overworked sales clerks. It isn't their fault; they just want to help.

Always contact the BBB to check out legitimate businesses. Visit their web site, or give them a call 24 hours a day at 410-347-3992. If you have a complaint, use the web site or write them at: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore, MD 21230. Their office serves Hagerstown and all of Washington County.