St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 15, 2010 – As jack-o-lanterns and witches crop up on lawns and doorsteps, children and adults may be looking for bargains on costumes to wear for Halloween, the second largest commercial holiday in the nation.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises caution when shopping with seasonal stores and fly-by-night websites for costumes and other merchandise. Complaints about late delivery, poor quality and difficulty obtaining refunds are common at the BBB. In the last year, the BBB has issued three news warnings on companies that sell human and animal costumes online.
“A costume may look cute, but it pays to check into a site’s reputation and consider return policies and shipping schedules before placing an order,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Otherwise, you could find yourself waiting for the costume to arrive or disputing a charge on your credit card when you’d rather be getting ready for Halloween.”
Last year, Doxy Lingerie and CupCakeIntimates, two Creve Coeur businesses run by Jennifer Lutke Reynolds, left consumers grumbling over items that arrived late or not at all. Reynolds’ websites generated hundreds of complaints. Reynolds said in February that she had sold the business to an out-of-state firm.
Another BBB investigation revealed problems with Wiggle-n-Waggle.com, a company in Maryville, Ill., that sells costumes for animals through a website. Consumers complained of never getting the costumes, not getting refunds and other problems. The company has an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest grade possible. Mail sent to the company by the BBB was returned as undeliverable.
The BBB offers these tips to help you avoid being haunted after Halloween is over:
- Location. If you're interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its Reliability Report with the BBB at www.bbb.org.
- Customer satisfaction policy. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If online companies can’t offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.
- Leave nothing to chance. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of everything involved before making an order. Be clear on the price and any shipping and handling charges. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees. Find out how long it will be before you receive your order. Federal law requires that goods and services be delivered within 30 days, unless a different delivery period is specifically stated by the merchant.
- Guard your personal information. Only provide your credit card number 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.
- 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.
More tips for safe shopping are available at the BBB website, www.bbb.org, or by calling the BBB at 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Thetford, Director of Communications, 314-645-3300, email@example.com