Here's How Many Holiday Shoppers Run Into Shopping Headaches and How You Can Prevent Them
Image: Pixabay

Here's How Many Holiday Shoppers Run Into Shopping Headaches and How You Can Prevent Them

if you play your cards right, your holiday shopping will go off without a hitch and leave you without the headaches many shoppers get

November 17, 2019

The holiday shopping season is about to be in full swing, but that doesn't mean that you have to have regrets about it. Many people run into problems at this time of the year because they miss some of the important points when they get caught up in the excitement. So shop with confidence this holiday shopping season and avoid many of the potential headaches that can come with holiday shopping.

Set a budget

Impulse purchases often cause consumers to overspend and can even lead them to start the New Year in debt. Establish a budget for holiday purchases and then stick to it to avoid these problems.

make sure the deal isn't a steal (from you)

Retailers often advertise discounts on popular items to attract shoppers to sales on Black Friday. To make sure you are really getting a deal on such products, research the items and their prices before you go. If the product you want has sold out before you get there, make sure that similar items are priced fairly before you buy one.

Be careful when signing up for credit

Were you offered a discount for signing up for a credit card? Be careful. Many major retailers offer consumers a one-time discount on their purchases in exchange for signing up for a credit card on the spot. If you are thinking about applying for a new credit card, make sure the card does not involve a deferred interest deal, which can trap you into paying a high interest rate if the card carries a balance past a particular deadline. Make sure to take the time to read the fine print and understand all the terms and conditions on the card before you sign up.

buy from stores you know

Helping people in need is often an important aspect of holiday celebration. Donating during the holiday season is a good practice, but you should learn as much as possible about where your money will go and how it will be used if you want to make the greatest impact possible. You can research charities with the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance and the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office, among others. Choose the causes you want to give to, and do not allow yourself to be swayed by high-pressure telemarketers or text messages and emails that might be a scam.

buy from stores you know

Shopping at stores that you are already familiar with improves the odds that you'll be able to easily return or exchange a purchase, should that need arise.

Be careful online

If shopping online, stick to well-established companies with secure websites (look for a lock icon on the site and a web address that starts with "https"). Get the company's street address and telephone number and verify them before you place an order. You don't want to be buying from an impostor who simply copied another website. If making a purchase through a site such as eBay or Craigslist, check out both seller and product before agreeing to the purchase. If you plan to meet someone in person to purchase or sell an item, choose a public location such as a shopping center or police station.

Check store policies

Stores aren't required by law to accept returned merchandise, so check refund and return policies before you buy. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a refund, which is better than nothing, and some charge a restocking fee. Hang on to receipts, including printed receipts for online purchases and invoices from mail order gifts. If your purchase came by mail, you may have to pay shipping costs to return it.

Pay with credit card

Consider paying with a credit card in order to improve your chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business, if you order a gift that never arrives, or if you get something that wasn't as advertised. If your credit card is lost or stolen, federal law limits your liability to only $50, which most credit card companies waive if you promptly notify them of the issue.

Gift Cards and certificates

If the store or restaurant closes before the gift card or gift certificate can be used, you may be able to contest the charge through your credit card company, but only if you paid by credit card. But if the business goes under, you might be out the entire amount with no recourse. Under North Carolina law, retailers can't charge a maintenance fee on gift cards within the first year and must clearly disclose any fees they'll deduct after that.

Criminals and crooks don't take a holiday

Always be aware of your surroundings and protect your wallet and access to your credit/debit cards when in public. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Never share your personal information with telemarketers who may call you on the phone or send emails or text messages asking for sensitive personal or financial data.

REPORT ALL SUSPECTED SCAMS

If you suspect that you are dealing with a scammer, you first need to stop all contact. Hang up the phone, don't reply to text messages or emails, and don't reply to mail.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. If you live outside North Carolina, report it to your state's Attorney General. You can also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).