by: Better Business Bureau of Eastern NC
RALEIGH, NC – The 2022 holiday shopping season promises to be an unpredictable one.
High inflation rates and increased prices of consumer goods are already throwing a wrench into holiday shopping. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) offers tips for consumers on how they can shop for the must-have holiday gifts, while keeping their personal information and finances safe.
Electronics, toys, and other products will be (or already are) in short supply, and retailers are struggling to staff up as the shopping season nears. Product shortages and increased online shopping are likely to result in even more online purchase scams this year. These scams accounted for nearly 40% of all scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker in 2021, according to the 2021 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report.
BBB serving Eastern NC offers the following tips for holiday shopping both in person and online:
- Research before you shop: If you find a great coupon, be sure to print it out and bring it to the store with you. Check out Business Reviews and Customer Reviews at www.bbb.org to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business that will guarantee the sale prices they claim to have.
- Know store policies: Knowing the store’s policies on returns can help you determine where to buy. Many retailers may include restocking fees and shorter return deadlines.
- Ask for gift receipts: Gift receipts generally include a description of the item purchased, but do not disclose the price paid. Without proof-of-purchase, the recipient may be turned down for returning or exchanging the item, or risk receiving an exchange at a lower price.
- Beware of deals that sound too good to be true: Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails often sound too good to be true, especially extreme low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Confirm that your online purchase is secure: Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and selecting “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (website address), and the dialog box will reveal whether the site is encrypted or not.
- Pay with a credit card: It’s best to use a credit card, because under Federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive an item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
- Keep documentation of your order: After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by email. The BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any emails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
The US Postal Service (USPS) is ready to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail from Thanksgiving through the New Year. As online shopping continues to be more common, BBB wants to color consumers about porch pirates during the holidays.
“Ordering gifts online has become the norm and thieves are looking to take advantage this holiday season,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of BBB serves Eastern NC. “We always stress buying from safe online sites, but consumers need to be careful throughout the entire shipping and delivery process to ensure they receive their product.”
Tips for keeping your packages safe:
- Track your packages: Follow shipments from the seller to your front door with online, text message or phone call tracking offered through the delivery company. Sign up for alerts to be notified of delays or exceptions and when the package has been delivered.
- Be available for delivery: Track packages and arrange to be available during estimated delivery times, have a trusted friend or neighbor pick up the packages in a timely manner after delivery or ship to your work address (pending company approval). Package delivery thieves have been known to follow delivery trucks around town, stealing packages immediately after delivery.
- Request a signature: This package delivery feature will likely come with a fee, but without a recipient’s signature, the delivery service won’t be able to leave a package exposed on a doorstep.
- Personalized delivery: Schedule a certain day and/or time for your package delivery, including evenings and weekends or provide specific instructions on where a package should be placed to keep the delivery hidden from public view. Consumers can also request a package to be held at a delivery center or shipped to a retailer’s nearest store location for in-person pickup. Fees for personalization do vary by delivery service.
- Use your credit card: When making purchases online, use your credit card rather than a debit card or another form of payment. Credit card companies are more likely to offer refunds in the event of theft.
- Insure valuable items: Purchase delivery insurance to protect merchandise against loss or damage. Contact your local police department if you are a victim of package theft.
For more information about BBB, visit BBB.org.