Prepare For Holiday Purchase Problems

Jeanette A. Tucker, Purvis, Trace, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  12/13/2006 2:25:45 AM

News You Can Use Distributed 12/08/06

Problems occasionally occur with items purchased as holiday gifts, but being prepared to handle those problems can go a long way in making the season more festive for you, says LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker.

"In the shopping frenzy that accompanies the holiday season, consumers may have disputes with retailers about unsatisfactory gift purchases," Tucker says. "Being prepared by knowing your rights and keeping good records, as well as making the commitment to keep following up until you get satisfaction, can make all the difference."

The problems can range from gifts not being delivered on time to defects that are found after the item is opened by the recipient. Having your receipts and knowing the return policies of retailers are among the things you should know if such situations occur, Tucker says.

The LSU AgCenter expert also says to follow these tips from the Federal Trade Commission if a purchase is not delivered as promised or if you feel ripped off in any other way:

  • Know your rights. By law, retailers, including those who do business over the Internet, are required to ship an order within the time stated in their ads at the time the order is placed. If the seller does not make any promises, purchases must be shipped within 30 days of the order date. Sellers must facilitate cancellations and prompt refunds if purchases do not ship within the promised time.

  • Keep good records. Keep receipts and order confirmations. Print Web pages containing transaction details for online orders, including any e-mails to and from retailers.

  • Get satisfaction. If you have an unsatisfactory shopping experience, contact the retailer. Go back to the store, or look for an address or a phone number to call. Check on a seller’s location and reputation with the Better Business Bureau or the state attorney general's office. Keep copies of all correspondence and log the date and time of all communications that take place. Be sure to include the name of individuals contacted.

  • File a complaint. If you suspect the business may have broken the law, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can call the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). You also can file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov.

"The biggest thing to remember is that if you're dissatisfied with how the matter is handled, take your business elsewhere in the future," Tucker says. "That also sends your message. Just remember, however, that not all of the business practices that hurt consumers are always illegal."

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