2020 Consumer Guide to Holiday Shopping

It’s the holiday season again and our shopping habits tend to get a bit interesting this time of year. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, & various seasonal holidays tend to get us in the mood to shop ‘til we drop.

You might splurge on the newest gaming system for the kids or the latest phone upgrade for yourself. Some of us may need the trendiest fashions or jewelry while others might treat themselves to an upgraded service like grocery delivery or extra housekeeping.

With 2020 being, well, 2020, not many of us have as much disposable income this year anyway and even if we do, we are wanting to be careful with it.

Dishonest Shysters

No matter how you spend money, one thing is certain. You will come up against shady companies who want to use you and not deliver on the promises they make. Many of us have been suckers online when we ordered a bottle of shampoo or a new coffee mug and received a miniature version of what we thought that we had paid for.

We all buy items thinking that there is a return policy but sometimes when we mail them back, the store points out the fine print. We order subscriptions to services online and then realize that it automatically renews after seeing 3 months worth of charges on our credit card. We sometimes fail to read that an online order has a ship date 3 months in the future. What can we do when these types of situations happen?

We do have rights as consumers, but the best thing you can do is to not get taken advantage of in the first place. So make your dollars count using the tips below.

Stay Safe

According to the Federal Trade Commission blogs, there are some almost foolproof tips to make sure your online shopping experience is without issues. (1,2)

  • Check out the Company BEFORE You Buy:

Anyone can set up an online shop. It is not hard to make a website these days, so confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.

  • Ignore Suspicious Messages:

If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don't reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don't ask for information that way.

  • Understand the Product:

Read the fine print about the product. If it says "refurbished," "vintage," or "close-out", the product is in less-than-mint condition.Name-brand products with super low prices could be counterfeits.

  • Compare Products:

Research the product you are looking at. Make sure that there are other products like it on the market that you can compare to. Read the online reviews and look at different sellers before deciding on one.

  • Research the Seller

If you are buying from a small business online or a person online, make sure to look at reviews about their reputation and customer service. Make sure that they have contact information and that any issues will be dealt with properly.

  • Know The Cost:

Look at price comparisons to the exact same product so that you know who has the better deal. Make sure to think about the shipping and handling aspect as some products are offered at a low price and then have a $20 shipping fee attached.

  • Check out the terms of the deal, like refund policies and delivery dates.

    • Can you return the item for a full refund if you're not satisfied?

    • If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will get your order?

  • Sellers are required to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. They are required to notify you if this will not happen. If you do not respond, they may cancel the order.

  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protections. Do not send cash or money transfers under any circumstances.

  • Never mail cash or wire money to online sellers. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it could be a scam.

  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter your information.

  • Keep your receipts and any emails or communications with sellers. Make sure your products, when delivered, meet the standards you expect. If you need to return an item, do so immediately.

Know Your Rights

It’s true that you can’t always trust the advertising you see for a product. Many companies are not about integrity or decency. They are only about what they can get away with to make the big bucks. Don’t be the one they trick into giving up your hard earned money.

You can help protect others this holiday season by reporting any suspicious sites, companies, policies, emails, phone calls, or texts to the FTC so that they can shut the problem down quickly. Report to the FTC Fraud Report.

We can all work together to have a safe and happy shopping experience this holiday season as we approach a new year together. And I think we can all clap and cheer as the new year approaches and 2020 is left in the distance.

  1. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/11/holiday-shopping-season-2020

  2. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0020-shopping-online

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