According to the Better Business Bureau and National Retail Foundation, the average person will spend $75.03 on Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations. That represents total spending of $6.9 billion across America.
Pop-up stores and websites offering Halloween costumes and decorations seem to come out of nowhere every fall. But every year, the BBB receives hundreds of complaints from consumers shopping from costume stores, both online and in-person.
Complaints regarding online shopping range from undelivered orders to difficulties obtaining refunds for cancelled orders. Complaints regarding in-store purchases involved unclear return and exchange policies, damaged products and missing pieces.
Complaints about products at temporary stores ranged from a nonworking mechanical spider to a poorly operating fog machine to a Wonder Woman costume that ripped as it was being put on by a child. In several cases, store employees told customers they could not return items because they had been used, were broken during the unpacking process, or that they were returned past a posted store deadline.
Some customers found stores closed when they returned to report a problem.
"Low prices may seem like a good deal, but that cute costume or those fancy Halloween decorations will be useless if it is not delivered on time. It pays to check into a website's reputation before you place an order online," said Karen Nalven, President of the BBB Serving West Florida. "Understand the nature and terms of shipping, including any known delays or shortage of stock when purchasing online. If you're buying from a temporary store, ask about return policies before making a purchase."
The BBB offers these tips to help you avoid being haunted after Halloween is over:
- Location. If you're interested in trying a new or unfamiliar online merchant, ask the company for its physical location (address and phone number) so you can check its BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org; or through BBB's online mobile app accessible on your Smartphone at m.bbb.org.
- Know their policies. Determine the company's refund and return policies before you buy. If online companies can't offer concrete commitments on how they will handle any potential problems you may have with their products or services, reconsider doing business with them.
- Understand all the charges. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of everything involved before placing an order. Be clear on the total cost of the transaction, including tax, any shipping and handling and other related charges. Know the terms of any product or service guarantees, including any known delays or shortages of stock. Find out how long it will be before you receive your order.
- Ask about post-holiday policies. If you're buying from a seasonal store, ask whether it will be open after the holiday and whether it will accept returns when the season is over. If not, consider buying elsewhere or taking more time to be sure the item is exactly what you want before making the purchase.
- Third party seals of approval. Make sure any third party seals of approval are current and can be verified to confirm the company's commitment to those standards.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit BBB.org.
Better Business Bureau press release