Father's Day is almost here, and your Better Business Bureau (BBB) has tips to help you make sound and safe last-minute gift purchases.
The National Retail Federation predicts spending for Father's Day will reach more than $20.1 billion this year, with shoppers finding gifts through a mix of shopping online, from specialty shops, and at department stores. Greeting cards, clothing, gift cards, and personal care items are all popular choices, and 46% of shoppers indicated that they're also planning a special outing this year, such as a restaurant meal.
Regardless of how you plan to recognize a special dad in your life, check out BBB Business Profiles at bbb.org/search for unfamiliar companies you're considering buying from. BBB's profiles includes valuable information such as how long a company has been in business, how many complaints – if any – have been filed against the company and how the company has responded.
You'll also want to keep the following recommendations in mind for your Father's Day shopping:
Check the terms of gift cards. When buying gift cards and certificates, be sure to check for specific terms and conditions prior to purchase, such as an expiration date or fees charged for inactivity after a period of time. In Tennessee, if there are any fees or an expiration date, the terms must be legibly printed on the card or certificate.
Check gift card packaging. Be sure that you don't see any signs of tampering – an indication that someone may have captured the card's number and pin. Scammers will grab this data and track cards in an attempt to access funds once a card is activated. Save receipts and take pictures of the customer service numbers listed on gift cards in case any issues arise before the cards are used successfully and completely.
Check for the company's refund and exchange policy. In general, federal and state laws do not require a company to offer a refund or exchange policy. Businesses are also usually not required to post a sign if no policies are offered, so you'll want to check for these policies up front and ask a company to provide the details in writing if nothing is posted. This is especially important when you're buying clothing or other items that will have a higher likelihood of needing to be exchanged.
Do your homework. You can use the site www.godaddy.com/whois to check when a company created their website. Use caution if a retailer's site popped up very recently, especially if you aren't able to find other information about the business. Confirm that the company has provided their address on their site and research the address online to make sure the location matches with the business being advertised.
Track shipping and delivery timelines. Some sites may still offer online shopping and delivery in time for Father's Day, but you'll want to check with the retailer or website to confirm that the delivery date is specified clearly and guaranteed when you order. It's best to print out a copy of the company's advertised delivery dates as you're making your purchase, to serve as documentation should delivery fall through.
Be diligent with rentals. If you're shopping for someone adventurous, you may be interested in renting ATVs, campers, canoes, motorcycles or other recreational equipment for excursions this Father's Day. Be sure you get a written contract that includes details such as the base rental cost, daily fees, insurance and time restrictions for any equipment. If possible, visually inspect the rental and get written proof of any existing damage before renting the equipment. This way, you can avoid disputes over unexpected maintenance and repair fees.
Pay by credit card. It's best to use a credit card when making online purchases. Credit cards offer protections you won't find with debit cards, which are treated the same as cash.
Don't click online coupons. If you see a post on social media or receive an email with an offer, unless you're sure the source is the real thing, don't click. The offer could take you to a malicious website. If you see an offer online, search for it independently. Go directly to the company's website to find and verify the coupon offer.
For more online shopping tips, and to check out companies or charities, be sure to visit bbb.org or call your BBB at 423-266-6144.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.