Q. Mother's Day is a very large retail holiday. What advice does BBB have?
A. Whether you are ordering flowers, shopping for custom jewelry or arranging for a special spa day appointment for the wonderful women in their life, be a smart consumer.
BBB sees lots of scams that focus on holiday shopping, and is warning consumers to proceed with caution before falling victim to a Mother's Day vendor scam, especially when shopping online.
BBB urges consumers to take extra precaution with placing floral orders, especially online. Not all online florists are the same; while some people are extremely happy with their online floral purchases, others find themselves disappointed when the flowers do not arrive on time, or do not arrive at all.
In 2011, more than 96,000 consumers searched for trustworthy florists on www.bbb.org. Most major floral delivery services are BBB accredited businesses, as are more than 500 local florists across the U.S. and Canada.
When finalizing gifts and shopping online, BBB recommends adhering to the following:
• Do your homework. Before ordering flowers, jewelry or any other gifts for Mother's Day, check out the company's BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org. This is a great way to help prevent disappointment with the product or customer service.
• Allow time for shipping and delivery. Check with the retailer or website to be certain that you have allowed enough time for delivery. Make sure that this date is specified clearly and guaranteed when you order. If you order ahead of time, delivery and other charges will be less than last-minute or overnight shipping.
Some florists offer discounts for deliveries a couple of days before a major holiday, since that helps them deal with the rush.
• Have a back-up plan. Make sure you understand the store's guarantee. Find out how customer complaints are handled and what recourse you will have if the arrangement is not satisfactory. It is best to use a credit card when ordering online, because you can dispute charges if the vendor does not come through. Charges made on a debit card are the same as cash, and you have no recourse through your bank if there is a problem.
• Make sure the business has your information. When it comes to flower delivery, there are times when delivery instructions need to be confirmed or a delivery driver needs additional directions. Make sure the florist has a call-back phone number or your cell phone to help them make sure your mom gets what you expect.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.