Saturday, 04 February 2023

Consumer Care: BBB tips for holiday shopping

Consumers and businesses nationwide are gearing up as the holiday season gets under way.

With orders to fill and presents to buy, it can be extremely stressful to try and checkoff everything on your list.

When shopping for the holidays, follow this BBB advice:

Stick to your budget. Avoid overspending by creating a gift budget for each person on your list to buy for. Making a list and checking it twice can help you to avoid purchasing impulse gifts, overbuying and exceeding your budget.

Seek out sales. Check your newspapers for coupons and look for ads on legitimate retailer websites. Comparison shop and check prices on the same items at different stores. If an offer sounds too good to be true, think twice before buying.

Pay by credit card and keep documentation. Credit cards offer consumer protections you can’t get when paying with cash or even debit card. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you don't receive an item or unauthorized charges appear on your account. However, it’s important to be mindful of only charging what you can pay off in full and on-time. After placing an order, print out the confirmation or save it electronically until it arrives.

Shop smart online and be aware of shipping deadlines. Always use secure, encrypted, "https," Web sites when buying online and pay with a credit card. Don't use the same password for shopping or for creation of "user accounts" that is used for your bank account. Be sure to place online orders early if you want them to arrive by Dec. 24; the US Postal Service offers specific deadlines to keep in mind.

Know your rights. Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods aren't shipped on time, shoppers can cancel and demand a refund.

Research Web sites and companies. Some unfamiliar shopping sites offer electronics or luxury goods at unrealistically low prices. Check out Web sites at www.bbb.org to find out a company's BBB rating, complaint history and much more. Remember that BBB Accredited Businesses have been found to meet BBB Standards and promise to respond to and resolve issues, so search for the seal.

Whether you head out to the stores or purchase with the click of a mouse, always take the time to shop smart. The holidays can be expensive and chaotic, so shop with trust with your BBB.

Evan Arnold-Gordon is public relations specialist for the BBB serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California.

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