Keeping a few simple tips in mind can help the hunt for school supplies go smoothly

Tips for Shopping Smartly and Safely This Back-to-School Season
Image: morguefile
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Across North Carolina and beyond, parents, students, and teachers are preparing for the busy back-to-school season—which means stocking up on clothes, shoes, pencils, notebooks, backpacks, computers, and other necessary school supplies.

"Preparing students for a new school year takes a lot of work," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. "During these hectic times, keeping a few smart shopping tips in mind can help the hunt for school supplies go smoothly."

Cooper offers the following tips for back-to-school shoppers:

  1. Shop around.
  2. Many retailers offer promotions on popular back-to-school items but compare prices to be sure you're getting a good deal. Ask if the retailer offers a price matching policy if you find a product you've purchased offered or advertised for less at another store. This can save you time and money if it keeps you from driving around in search of the lowest price.

  3. Buy from stores you know.
  4. Buying from reputable, well-established retailers improves the odds that you'll be able to return or exchange a purchase if needed. To check out a company's track record, call the North Carolina Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division or contact your local Better Business Bureau.

  5. Shop safely online, too.
  6. If you shop 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.

  7. Consider buying used or second-hand.
  8. Buying certain items used, especially expensive text books and electronics such as graphic calculators, can save you a lot of money. Check out local resale stores as well as websites such as eBay or Craigslist for second-hand deals.

  9. Learn about refund and return policies.
  10. Stores aren't required by law to accept returned items, so ask about refunds and return policies before you buy. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a cash refund, and some charge a "restocking fee" for returns. Hang on to receipts, including printed receipts for online purchase. If your purchase came by mail, you may have to pay shipping to return it.

  11. Consider paying by credit card.
  12. This will improve your chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business. If you order supplies that never arrive, you may be able to dispute the charge.

To check out a company, contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.