BBB tips on the ‘cooling off’ time of year

September means it’s Kansas State Fair time. As the temperatures begin to cool down, it’s also a good time to think about the “cooling-off rule.” Each year at the fair, consumers are inundated with sales pitches for everything from barbecue grills to vacuum cleaners to cemetery monuments. It’s important that fair-goers remember to exercise the same deliberate judgment at the fair that they would anywhere else.

However, if the excitement leads to spur-of-the-moment purchases and later second thoughts, the Federal Trade Commission’s “cooling-off rule” can come in handy. Here is the Better Business Bureau’s advice regarding fair sales pitches, smart consumerism and the cooling-off rule.

Tips for smart buying

These reminders can keep those after-purchase regrets known as “buyer’s remorse” from following you home from the fair:

▪  Ask for and get in writing what the seller’s refund and exchange policy is. Acquire warranty information as well.

▪  Get the company’s physical address and telephone number.

▪  If there’s something you think you may be interested in before attending the fair, do some homework first. That means checking consumers’ ratings of the product and comparing prices and features of similar products by several manufacturers.

▪  Relieve any spur-of-the-moment sales pressure. Don’t buy immediately after getting the sales pitch. Let some time go by even if it just means walking around for a few minutes.

▪  Find out how long the sales price is good for. If it’s good after the fair is over, wait until then to make the purchase. Sales pressure about limited-time offers or limited stock can be a red flag that the product may be subpar.

▪  Obtain a copy of the company’s cancellation form for potential later use, should you get home and change your mind.

▪  Use your smartphone or other digital device to visit bbb.org and look up the company. BBB Business Reviews have been optimized for smartphones.

Cooling-off rule

If you get home with the product or with a signed sales contract and you change your mind, the FTC’s cooling-off rule could come into play. It can protect you from an unwanted purchase. Just remember these points:

▪  You have until midnight of the third business day after you bought the item to postmark your cancellation notice. You may also bring the form in person to the company within the three business days.

▪  The rule applies to purchases made away from the seller’s permanent location.

▪  It applies to purchases of $130 or more. ($25 for door-to-door sales transactions at your home.)

▪  Purchases qualify as long as they are intended for personal, family or household purposes.

▪  It does not apply to arts and crafts purchases.

▪  You do not have to give a reason for changing your mind.

▪  If you did not get cancellation forms, you may simply write a cancellation letter.

For more details about the cooling-off rule, visit the FTC’s website at ftc.gov.

Be careful when giving out your name and address to companies, even those who invite you to register for a drawing. You may later receive unwanted telemarketer calls or credit cards. Plus your information may be sold to another company, multiplying the chances of annoying sales solicitations.

Hopefully the weather will be all that cools off in September. But if your consumer enthusiasm for a product purchased at the fair chills down, you have the cooling-off rule in your corner.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the BBB at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.