Senior citizens are often vulnerable during the holiday shopping frenzy due to unscrupulous retailers and confusing and/or deceptive practices. What follows is a guide to getting what you pay for without hassles or getting ripped off.
Beware of Gift Cards
Gift cards have become popular, but be aware of the fact that recently some national chain stores have gone out of business. If a business goes bankrupt, their gift cards are virtually worthless. Also, many cards have hidden fees and penalties. Gift cards are a great bonus to all retail businesses since they get the money up front and it may be months (or longer) before the card is redeemed. (A recent study estimates that Americans are now holding $8 billion in unused gift cards!)
Make Sure You Pay the Posted Price
A store can’t charge you more for a product than the lowest posted or advertised price. This includes catalogs, sale items, and supermarket “club” specials. Accidental overcharges are more common than you’d think so be sure make sure you were charged the right price.
Pay with Credit Cards Online – When Practical
There are advantages to using a credit card to make online purchases. For instance, it’s much easier to dispute a charge if there are problems with your purchase. Credit cards also often provide other warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.
Note: growing credit card debt is a national crisis. Be sure you can pay off your balance in a reasonable time – and know your interest rate before buying on credit!
Prompt Delivery is Required
For online and telephone purchases, sellers must ship the goods by the date promised, or if no date was given, within 30 days of payment. If they don’t, they must offer you a refund. (There are some exceptions to this rule. Again, check the terms and conditions before finalizing your purchase.)
Refunds and Exchanges
Stores must give refunds or exchanges on all items that are returned within seven days with a receipt. The only exception is if they have clear signs stating a no-refund or no-exchange policy in one of these designated places in the store: the cash register, sales counter, or public entrance. Also check tags attached to the item, or on the order forms, as refund/return policies may also be stated in writing therein.
For more information – or to complain about a business – contact the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit at 310.458.8336, or visit us at smconsumer.org.