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(Raleigh) — The holiday season is officially here. According to reports from the National Retail Federation (NRF) Americans will spend 4% more this year on gifts, decorations and greeting cards. The average consumer is set to spend an estimated $1,007 this holiday season and the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) is reminding consumers to shop with care, whether in store or online.

“As e-commerce sales continue to rise, it is important that consumers do their research ahead of time to ensure they are dealing with a trustworthy business,” says Mallory Wojciechowski, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina.

In 2017, BBB received more than 17,000 complaints nationwide against online retailers.

BBB serving Eastern NC offers the following tips for holiday shopping both in person and online:

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.

Know store policies. Knowing the store 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.

Shop on trustworthy websites. Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s Business Profile for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Always look for the BBB seal on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

Protect your personal information. Take time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

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 cardholder 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. BBB recommends saving a copy of the web page and any emails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

For more information you can trust, visit www.bbb.org/holiday-helper

About BBB serving Eastern North Carolina
Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by BBB Accredited Business fees from over 3,700 local businesses and professional firms. BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by BBB include reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, consumer/business education programs and dispute resolution services. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration. Visit www.bbb.org

 

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