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Action Line: Check the return policy before you buy

An Action Line reader asks about returning Halloween merchandise. The answer: It can be complicated. Blair Looney offers some tips for getting your money back.
An Action Line reader asks about returning Halloween merchandise. The answer: It can be complicated. Blair Looney offers some tips for getting your money back. Los Angeles Times

A reader: The Halloween stores are back again and retailers are already displaying the next holiday’s decorations and gift ideas. What happens if I shop now, and I need to make an exchange or a return?

Action Line: That’s a great question, and you’re right: Holiday decorations are out in stores earlier and earlier. Many consumers mistakenly believe that even if they have a receipt a store must provide them with a refund if they take the item back. This is not the case. Here are some tips to get you started:

▪ Always check the company’s Business Review with BBB. We have millions of records of companies throughout North America 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 dynamic seal.

▪ Check the return policy carefully; watch for return shipping fees, refund policies and restocking fees.

▪ If you are shopping online, make sure the company has a privacy policy to protect your confidential information.

▪ 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 to your identity.

▪ Keep a record of your purchase. Save your receipts in case the item needs to be returned or exchanged.

▪ Check the amount of time you have to get a refund or exchange. Some sellers have a 30-day policy. If you shop now, that policy may be void by the time you actually give the gift.

Sellers are required to post their policy in the store. We suggest at the entrance, at each cash register, on the receipt, on the merchandise tag if possible, and anywhere else that a consumer would see the policy. Before you make the purchase, ask for a copy of the store policy. Make sure you read and understand it. If a seller does not have their own policy the state Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General tells us that sellers must abide by the state code.

If you have problems with your refund and exchanges, talk to management at the seller’s location. BBB always suggests that consumers try to work with the company first. If that does not get resolution, you can file a complaint with BBB at www.bbb.org You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or contact your local District Attorney’s Office in the consumer protection division or contact your Attorney General, www.oag.ca.gov.

Finally, enjoy yourself. The holidays are when we’re supposed to spend time with family and can enjoy the joy of giving. Don’t miss it.

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, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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