Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson

As consumers, we watch the cyclical nature of the holidays wax and wane year after year in every store. Before the pumpkin decorations are even put away, Christmas stockings are for sale. Why? Because consumers like a head start. In fact, 43 percent of buyers will start their holiday shopping in November, according to the National Retail Federation. Some, however, already started while things were still spooky, with 39 percent of consumers holiday shopping in September and October.

At Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific, we know how important it is to get the most bang for your buck this time of year. The last thing a consumer needs is to be scammed out of their hard-earned money, and believe me, there are a lot of Grinches out there who will attempt it.

NRF predicts that this season, individual consumers will spend an average of $1,048. That number comprises money spent on gifts for friends and family, decorations, holiday food and beverages, as well as other non-gift items related to the holidays.

In other words, compared to 2018, consumers will spend more. Last year, shoppers spent $1,007. Retail trends show that overall we’ve spent more every year since 2016. And, as we’re merrily shopping, scammers are cooking up new tactics to steal money and personal information.

Follow these tips from the Better Business Bureau to ensure you shop smart this holiday season:

Look out for email phishing

This time of year, expect to get a ton of promotional advertising in your inbox. But be careful not to open any emails from senders you don’t recognize. To check, hover over the email address to verify the domain name matches the company name. Also, hover over any links in the email to ensure you’re being directed to a legitimate website before clicking.

Ask about return policies

Understand that returning and exchanging is a privilege, not a legal right. Laws on returning vary by state and, of course, by company. Make sure you read these policies before buying. Also, with all the gift-giving, always opt for gift receipts to make it easy for your friends and family to return, exchange or receive store credit if they need to.

Beware of shipping timeframes and thieves

Federal law requires that orders made by phone, mail or online be shipped by the date promised or within 30 days if no delivery time was stated. If goods are not shipped on time, shoppers can demand a refund. Be sure to check with the U.S. Postal Service to understand their timelines and delivery expectations, which they outline in detail every year. Also beware of “porch pirates” — these are scammers who steal packages right off your property. It’s best to have gifts delivered to a secure location or set up a camera on your property to check in.

Shop with trust

Finally, when it comes to online shopping, don’t jump at the first deal you spot. Take a moment to verify the seller and check complaints on their BBB profile at bbb.org.

Jeremy Johnson is the Eastern Idaho Marketplace Manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.