Shop Smart and Safe Both In-Store and Online This Holiday Season

Help ensure that your holiday season stays merry and bright

Shop Smart and Safe Both In-Store and Online This Holiday Season
Image: Pixabay
December 14, 2016

With the 2016 holiday shopping season in full swing, the North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) is encouraging consumers across the state to take steps to avoid common problems that can occur this time of year.

Avoid potential headaches and help ensure that your holiday season is as enjoyable as possible by shopping smart and spending wisely! Keep the following tips in mind:

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.

Shop safely online, too. 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.

Learn about refund and return policies. Stores aren't required by law to accept returned merchandise, so ask about refund and return policies before you buy. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a refund, 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.

Consider paying by credit card to improve your chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business. If you order a gift that never arrives, you may be able to dispute the charge. Also, if your credit card is lost or stolen, federal law limits your liability to $50.

Giving gift cards or certificates? If the store or restaurant closes before the gift card can be used, you may be able to contest the charge through your credit card company. 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 scammers 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. Also, 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.

To file a consumer complaint, contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.

Happy holidays from all of us here at NCCC!