CHICAGO, IL – October 25, 2010 – As Halloween weekend approaches, children and adults alike continue to search for and complete the perfect costume. Whether scary or silly, it’s important to do business with companies you can trust to guarantee treats instead of tricks. The Better Business Bureau offers tips to consumers to avoid being haunted by scammers.
When shopping for Halloween costumes and other merchandise, the BBB cautions consumers to be careful of seasonal stores and fly-by-night websites. Common complaints include difficulty obtaining refunds and receiving incorrect items regarding this type of merchandise.
“It may seem like you’re getting a great deal by shopping online or last minute, but it’s important for consumers to research the company and its shipping and return policies before placing an order,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Otherwise, you could find yourself without a costume or unable to return one that you did not want.”
In the last 12 months alone, consumers have researched Costumes - Masquerade & Theatrical companies with the BBB over 1,250 times. This is a 59% increase in inquires during the same time period last year.
Lisa Curtin of Arlington Heights, Ill. stated, “I ordered the costume in size large the week of Halloween so I not only paid $32.95 for the costume but extra for overnight shipping so that she would have it in time. They shipped a size extra small. I returned it two weeks later and they refused to give me a credit even though it was their fault and I had paid an additional charge to ship it back. The customer service rep was sarcastic and said that they would do nothing. She even laughed at me and said that there was nothing that I could do about it.”
Joanna Browning, another complainant from Buffalo Grove, Ill. stated, “I ordered 6 or 7 Halloween costumes so that I could decide which one to keep. I asked the lady if they could be returned when I ordered. She said of course. I kept two and sent the rest back within two days of getting them. They kept the costumes and refused to give me credit. They said that they had to get them back within 5 days but they had not said that before. Since I could not even get the costumes back I lost $300. I just gave up on getting a refund.”
The BBB is offering consumers these tips when looking to buy Halloween merchandise:
- Research the company. Look for full contact information on the seller’s Web site, including a phone number, e-mail address, and a street address. Always check out the company on www.bbb.org before doing business.
- Read all terms and conditions carefully. Know the refund policy. Some stores may have time limits for returns and may not allow refunds for seasonal merchandise such as Halloween costumes. Others may only provide store credit for returns.
- Ask how long a store will operate. If you’re buying from a seasonal store, ask them whether they will be open after the holiday and whether they 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.
- Pay by credit card. If something goes wrong, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company.
- Guard your personal information. Only provide your credit card information online in a secure environment. Look for the prefix “https://” in the URL box which lists the website’s address to be sure that the site you are using is secure.
- Keep documentation. Save copies of the order confirmation and receipts.
- Examine your costume as soon as it arrives. If it doesn’t fit, or isn’t what you ordered, contact the seller as soon as possible.
To find a Halloween costume provider you can trust, visit www.bbb.org
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reviews on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.