BBB: Buying from pop-up Halloween stores requires caution

02/27/2013 7:52 AM

08/05/2014 9:41 PM

They haunt shopping centers every fall, filling vacant buildings with their ghostly merchandise. Temporary Halloween stores are a retailing success that first began in the late 1980s. They started to flourish during the next decade and today they are a major player in the annual holiday commerce that surrounds our Halloween celebration. In 1999, the retail chain Spirit Halloween, which is now owned by Spencer Gifts, ran 63 temporary stores. By last year the number had grown to 970 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

The National Retail Federation says that this year 170 million Americans will spend around $8 billion on Halloween costumes, candy treats, pumpkins and assorted decorations. The holiday has become second only to Christmas in annual spending by American consumers.

For those who are doing some last-minute shopping to outfit their little goblins or decorate for Halloween parties, the Better Business Bureau advises educating yourself about pop-up stores. Last year the BBB received 357 complaints nationally about costume stores and websites. Among the complaints were reports of poor quality merchandise and of difficulties obtaining refunds because the store had already closed.

Here are four tips to help you when you venture out to haunt the aisles of Halloween stores:

• Research the store. If the merchant is new to you or unfamiliar, take the time to check out their BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org. That way you can find out about the company’s past performance.
• Review their return policy. Some seasonal stores may have an “all sales final” policy. Be sure you read and understand what the merchant will do for you if the merchandise is faulty or you wish to return it for some reason.
• Find out exactly how long the store will be in operation. After the holiday is over, will they still be around? Remember that you may want to return what you bought. If the answer is that they will not be around, be absolutely sure that you want to make the purchase. There are certainly times when specialty merchandise can only be found at the temporary Halloween outlet. If it is worth taking the risk of not being able to return it, then make the purchase.

Remember that after the holiday is over, telephone numbers for that store will probably be disconnected. The company’s website might be your only reliable source for contact information.

If you are among the many consumers who choose to rent a costume or props from a retailer, be sure that you understand all of the terms and conditions associated with the rental. Some rentals require a down payment that you will not be able to get refunded if you return the item late or it is damaged.

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