Halloween: Next to Christmas it’s one of the busiest shopping seasons – don’t become a victim


THIS month North Americans will spend billions on costumes, scary décor, and candy. It’s the second largest shopping holiday next to Christmas. The problem, however, is that many stores that sell spooky items only show up once a year.

Every year, shoppers report missing or damaged pieces and unclear return policies. When customers go to exchange or report a problem, the store has packed up and left without a trace or has a “no refund” policy.

To avoid becoming a victim, BBB (Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC) recommends consumers buy from companies they are familiar with, research new stores and ask for year-round contact information for seasonal stores. Consumers should also save receipts, ask about return policies and remember to use, if possible, companies that have operated in the community for a number of years and have a good reputation.

Finally, if the store allows, it is always wise to try on the costume while at the location in order to avoid future problems. In this manner, consumers can be sure that the costume fits well and is complete as advertised on the package.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid problems shopping at seasonal Halloween stores:

* Start with trust. Check the company’s business profile at www.bbb.org

* Buy from companies that have been around long enough to have a clear track record.
* Ask the store how long it plans to occupy the building. If you cannot get an answer, ask to speak with a manager.
* See if they have a website in case you need to contact them later.
* Inquire about the return policy in detail. Keep in mind many costume purchases may be final sale.
* Remember, there are no laws that govern return policies. BBB only wants to be sure the business follows its own policies to the letter.
* Save your receipts and use a credit card. You’ll have the most protection if you must dispute a problem with the card’s issuer.

“This is also a time for the public to be good consumers,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “This is one of those holidays where ‘wardrobing’ can be a problem. Wardrobing is when a consumer buys a bunch of stuff with the intent of returning it right after the big event for a full refund. BBB sees this as a deceptive practice and can cost a business money. Trust goes both ways in a marketplace.”