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Better Business Bureau: How to avoid being frightened by Halloween shopping

Halloween is definitely not small potatoes, or pumpkins, as it were.

In fact it is the second-largest shopping season of the year. According to a survey for the National Retail Federation, over 157 million Americans will celebrate the spooky holiday this year. They will spend an average of $74.34 to do so, with the grand total of spending expected to be almost $7 billion.

With all of that activity in the marketplace, it’s important to keep your head when you go searching for the merchandise you desire to enhance your celebration.

Pop-up stores

Complaints are received each year by the Better Business Bureau regarding temporary retail outlets that suddenly show up in our neighborhoods this time of year. The complaints range from issues about unclear return and exchange policies to products that are damaged or have missing pieces.

Some customers say that when they go to return a product or express a grievance, they find the store is gone.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when shopping at pop-up stores:

▪ Check the company’s business review with the BBB.

▪ Buy from companies that have been around long enough to have a clear track record. Stores with a spotty past may change their name from year to year.

▪ Ask at the store how long they plan to occupy their building, going all the way to a manager if need be to get an answer.

▪ See whether they have a website in case you need to contact them later.

▪ Inquire about their return policy in detail.

▪ Save every receipt.

▪ Use a credit card so you can dispute problems with the card’s issuer.

▪ Some recommend shopping nearer to Halloween. Retailers may lower prices on candy, costumes and decorations to move them out.

Online shopping

It’s getting late for online shopping, but it’s still possible if you pay attention to promised shipping dates. (It’s unlikely, of course, that you would have time between now and Halloween to return an item and get a replacement sent.)

Here’s some advice about online Halloween shopping:

▪ Check the company’s BBB record.

▪ Use your browser to search for the company’s customer reviews by typing their name plus the word “review.”

▪ Services like Pay Pal are useful because they keep your credit card number from the seller.

▪ With reputable retailers, pay by credit card for the same reasons as cited above.

▪ Get their return policy and read it carefully.

▪ Print out and save all email notifications regarding the transaction.

▪ Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the price and any shipping and handling charges.

▪ Check a site’s security settings, being sure the Web address begins with https://.

Safety for little goblins

Take these precautions to keep your children safer when trick-or-treating:

▪ Bright costumes with reflector tape added can make them more visible.

▪ Masks impair children’s vision so makeup is a better option.

▪ Each child needs a flashlight and someone with them needs a cellphone.

▪ No entering strangers’ homes or vehicles.

▪ Avoid houses with lights off.

▪ Stay in familiar neighborhoods.

▪ An adult should check all treats before being eaten.

Spend your Halloween shopping dollars wisely and instruct your trick-or-treaters carefully for a safe and happy fright night.

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