A reader: Father’s Day is just around the corner. My Dad is one of those people who has everything, doesn’t need anything and gets upset if you spend too much money on him. He’s taken up a new hobby, building ships in a bottle. I found an online site that sells kits but I’m not sure if they are a good company. Any tips?
Action Line: The ship in a bottle is actually called a type of mechanical puzzle according to Wikipedia. A mechanical puzzle is any bottle containing an object that does not appear to fit through the mouth of the bottle. You can order online but check out the company first. Here are a list of tips for shopping with online retailers:
▪ Always check the company’s reliability report with the BBB. We have millions of records of companies throughout the United States and Canada and you can quickly check by going to bbb.org. It doesn’t matter if the company is offering the lowest price if they have delivery or customer satisfaction issues. Be safe and check before you click.
▪ Check out the company’s website and look for the BBB seal.
▪ Make sure there is a physical address and customer service phone number for the company, something other than an email address, should you need to contact them.
▪ Make sure you understand the shipping fees, if any.
▪ Check the return policy carefully; watch for return shipping fees, refund policies and restocking fees.
▪ Look for the “s” in the URL address on the checkout page. If it doesn’t say ‘https:,’ run the other way. You are sending money to an unsecured site and that is always a red flag and a major risk.
▪ Keep a record of your online purchase. Print out the page with the seller's name, address, and phone number. Print out the page about the item you ordered. Print any email confirmation messages you get and any follow-up messages about problems in shipping.
▪ You also need to decide if you are in a hurry for the item. Can you wait up to 10 business days for regular delivery and save a lot of money? Many online stores offer free basic shipping for holiday purchases. The length of your patience can determine your shipping charges.
A final word of warning whether you shop locally or online: check and double check on the amount of time you have to make an exchange or return. If you are shopping now or for holiday gifts coming in the future, there could easily be a problem with returns at the end of December or later.
Remember: if you have a problem with a company, call the BBB at 800-675-8118 or go online at www.bbb.org.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.